The former Maple Street Apartments, also known as Jackson Apartments, have been vacant for three years. Mayor Frank Melton shut them down in January 2006 after declaring the units hazards to residents’ health and safety.
Since that time, there has been wrangling between city officials, the Hattiesburg owner, two banks that hold the deeds and companies that gained a stake in the property during the last two county tax sales.
In 2006, The Peoples Bank of Mendenhall – one of the deed holders – appealed the city’s condemnation order. Bank officials said it had lined up potential buyers who might develop the site, but none of those proposals came to fruition. In January 2008, the bank agreed to dismiss its appeal in Hinds County Circuit Court.
The legal hurdles as well as the required removal of hazardous materials from the site, such as asbestos, delayed city plans for taking the apartments down. Still, Community Improvement Director Joe Lewis continued to advocate for the demolition.
“This has been a major eyesore for years,” he said, noting the complex’s proximity to Lanier High. “We are just glad we are able to finally get this behind us.”
The Maple Street Apartments demolition began at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. By 5 p.m., at least three buildings were down in piles of splintered wood and hunks of metal. The complex is expected to be torn down in multiple phases, Lewis said.
The first phase of work, which will be eight buildings and the burned-out office and laundry center, should be complete by Monday and will cost the city roughly $160,000. The money is coming out of the city’s general funds, Lewis said. Last year, the Community Improvement Division estimated the cost to raze the entire 110-unit complex would range from $750,000 to $950,000.