Neighbors leery of Pascagoula apartment plans

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Looking at it now, you might not believe the neighborhood around Eden Street in Pascagoula was ever infested with crime.  But residents like Pamela Fairly have vivid memories of criminal activity, from not so long ago.

"Over the years we've worked very hard to increase a standard of living in this community not only for us as homeowners, but for the schools that are in this neighborhood," Fairley said.

The vacant Lodge Apartment Complex is due for a $15 million renovation.   Fairley and her neighbor L.C. Turner are worried the salary restrictions on some of the units will attract residents they don't want living there and pave the way for history to repeat itself.

"I have a huge problem with subsidized housing moving into my neighborhood," said Fairley, whose property value has increased dramatically since her neighborhood cleaned up.  "I can only compare it to what it was like when there was subsidized housing here before, and the crime rate was off the charts."

Turner agrees.

"I think what you're doing is putting another Carver Village right here in a neighborhood where people are family oriented."

Developers said the complex will have 210 units total.  Of those, 103 will have rent at market price.  Fifty four of them will have reduced rents, restricted to those making less than $39,000 per year.  The remaining 53 will have reduced rents and be restricted to those making $59,400.

"The only investment that I have to pass down to my children is my home," Fairley said.  "And I know that over a long-even a short period of time, that a 210 subsidized housing complex is going to decrease my property value considerably."
Developers and city officials have a much different vision for the complex.  In fact, they believe it will be the premier apartment complex in the city once the renovation is completed.

"This is work force housing," said Mayor Robbie Maxwell.  "Its first class.  It'll be used for school teachers and policemen and firemen and welders in the shipyard, things like that.  This is something that we desperately need in Pascagoula."

He also believes when it comes to property value, the new complex will have a positive effect.

"I think it's going to enhance property value.  Because it's going to be a first class operation.  And its just as important they're going to have a first class management team to run the apartments."

Gentry Williams, one of the men behind the project, has a promise for area residents.

"I live in Pascagoula, my kids go to school in Pascagoula," Williams said.  "I've been there all my life, and whatever I do in Pascagoula will be an asset to the community, not a detriment."

He also said he plans to maintain the complex, for years to come.

"You can build the nicest apartment complex or condos and lease them out, but if you don't manage them properly, they'll all turn into trash," Williams said.  "And that's where I'm going to separate myself."

Williams said he plans to use Stratus Management Company, which he said has a successful history in Pascagoula.

Neighbors like Fairley and Turner said will watch with a critical eye, now and well into the future.

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