COVINGTON – During a Finance & Administration Committee meeting Tuesday, city leaders agreed two old businesses need to be torn down.
The city’s blight eradication program, which has been in progress since being awarded a grant two years ago, will be coming to a close soon, but the old Thomas Funeral Home at North Main and Spring Streets and another business at Union and Dixon will be coming down first.
“I think this is the right thing to do,” said mayor Justin Hanson.
However, unlike the other properties torn down, there will be no lien against these two.
City attorney Rachel Witherington said the legal fees associated with pursuing property owners living out of state are expensive and the cost may never be repaid.
“Trying to find them is sometimes very difficult because you have to use a process server who has several different addresses and when you can’t find them you have to publish (legal notices in a newspaper), which can cost $5,000 each. We’re spending a lot of money to get the final result. If we put a lien on the property, we might get it back, we might not … there’s no guarantee we’ll recoup the money.”
Witherington advised the board to proceed with demolition with agreements from the family members who inherited the properties in question.
“If we don’t take advantage of the agreements we have now, we’ll still have to do it at some point and it’s gonna cost more money and more time.”
The combined cost of tearing down the buildings was estimated at nearly $103,000 – which involves asbestos abatement and the removal of hazard materials, lead paint and mold in addition to the structures themselves – but the city plans to rebid.
Funds from the city’s Artesian fund will be used as a grant match.
About the blight eradication project, Alderman Minnie Bommer said the removal of dilapidated houses allows for rebirth.
“Now people can build in an established subdivision.”
Hanson said neighbors were grateful after a house came down on Long Avenue last week.
Thomas Funeral Home, which is across from Barlow Funeral Home, is a large two-story building on a hill that is falling in. A column supporting a large gabled portico fell several years ago.
The run-down business at Union and Dixon, a former garage, is in what is now being labeled the Depot District at the downtown’s eastern edge.
During the meeting the mayor and board also approved the application for the Tennessee Downtowns program, which will assist in revitalization of the area near the East Liberty Avenue and Union Street depot.
“Tennessee Downtowns is a baby step before becoming (designated a) Main Street,” said Covington-Tipton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lauren Fletcher.
If selected, the city could see $5,000 for economic development there.
There are currently few businesses located there – an antique store is set to open next week – but Hanson envisions a downtown area like Broad Avenue in Memphis.
“That’s our exit off the interstate,” he said. “That’s the first thing people see when they come in on Hwy. 54.”
Just as he envisions a revitalization effort bringing new life to North Main Street he envisions new life for the Depot District.
“I can see it being a livable, walkable community … affordable housing, food and drink, nightlife, dancing. A little Beale Street-esque,” he said of North Main. “And then you’ve got the arts district where the depot is, a perfect spot for many things.
“Do you remember how terrible Broad Avenue was? Ten or 15 years ago you wouldn’t go down there, now it’s a great place to go. They’ve got a water tower down there just like we have … let’s get that water tower painted something cool and colorful, let’s repurpose that Depot District down there, have a greenspace where the compress is … and then repurpose the living area up at North Main where we’ll have good food and beverages. I believe in it. I see it.”
The grant award is expected to be announced by the state in August.