Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wishing Well apartments in southeast Atlanta razed

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 10:08 AM

After years of trying to contact absentee property owners and cut legal red tape, city officials finally gave the green light for crews to demolish the notorious Wishing Well Apartments in southeast Atlanta.

Residents say the long-vacant, dilapidated 1970s complex in Glenrose Heights a few blocks from I-75 has been littered with trash, tires and overgrown bushes for years. The 48-unit complex, more than half of which has deteriorated, had become a magnet for social ills such as squatters, drug dealers, and pimps. One nearby resident told CL of the days when cars would slow in front of the complex, honk their horn, and await for someone to bring drugs from one of vacant units.

The demolition of Wishing Well, which began yesterday morning with the TV-friendly images of a bulldozer gutting the apartments, is a "downpayment on our commitment to the community," the mayor said — a sign, he says, that City Hall is serious in dealing with blighted properties.

And dealing with blight is a pain in the ass. Wishing Well was subdivided and sold off over the years, complicating matters when it came to contacting the property's owners. City officials say it's taken nearly three years to jump through the legal hoops and proceed with demolition, which, in this case, will cost taxpayers more than $180,000 should the city not recoup the cost. Shelby says the city will place a lien on the property, which would have to be paid before the complex's various owners could sell the land.

Neighborhood residents — some of whom cheered "nah-nah-nah, hey-hey-hey, goodbye" while workers crushed walls — said they were relieved that the apartment complex would no longer be an eyesore. But they wanted city officials and the police to show Glenrose Heights more attention than they've done in the past.

Glenrose Heights resident Mae Goodwin, right, tells Mayor Kasim Reed that the southeast Atlanta neighborhood deserves more attention
  • Joeff Davis
  • Glenrose Heights resident Mae Goodwin, right, tells Mayor Kasim Reed that the southeast Atlanta neighborhood deserves more attention
Before Mayor Kasim Reed had a chance to address the bank of cameras and reporters standing in the parking lot of the soon-to-be-demolished apartment complex, Mae Goodwin, a Glenrose Heights resident who's lived near Wishing Well since 2008, took him aside.

"After this is cleaned up, how many times are we going to see y'all?" the grandmother asked.

The mayor seemed surprised at the question. "I'm not going to disappear," he told Goodwin. Since taking office, Reed said, code enforcement officers have reduced a backlog of cases from more than 5,000 to approximately 2,000.

After the tense moment passed, Goodwin moved closer to Reed and asked him to lean close. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she explained how the neighborhood has been overlooked and the personal hardships of living in an area with crime. The mayor listened and offered to give his personal phone number to help with problems.

C.J. Davis, the interim director of code enforcement, says her division is currently compiling a citywide list of properties that could be torn down. As of today, her team has counted more than 200 parcels.

Considering the tricky legal issues that come with tearing down structures on private property, there's no timeline for how long that process might take. Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who represents Glenrose Heights and other neighborhoods wrestling with blight, is proposing legislation that would require owners of vacant properties to register the parcels or face a fine.

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