A Year After Katrina, Untouched Buildings More Than Eyesores - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

A Year After Katrina, Untouched Buildings More Than Eyesores

The Director of Urban Development in Gulfport says there are about 2,000 severely damaged properties that haven't been demolished or cleaned up since the storm. Recently, the city took up a new strategy to deal with issue, but officials admit the process takes time. Some residents worry that these buildings may be not only unpleasing to the eye, but dangerous as well.

It took Ann Holt a year to gut, remodel, and finally reopen her 30th Avenue beauty shop after Katrina. In that same year's time, she says the building next door has gone untouched.

"We look out to see something of this sort and it could be cleaned up," said Holt.

After working so hard get back in business, Holt worries the destroyed restaurant/convenience store will keep away her salon clients concerned about their tires.

"We have customers who complain about the glass on the property. Whenever we clean the property and have a storm or a wind to come through, the debris from the other property blows back on to our property," she said. "There goes another clean up crew."

Holt says she and other neighbors have appealed to the city of Gulfport for help.

"We have signed petitions," she said. "A couple of businesses around the area have signed petitions and presented it to the city."

Gulfport Urban Planning Director Larry Jones says his shorthanded office has faced setbacks in dealing with Katrina eyesores because of problems contacting owners due to outdated mailing addresses.

The city's latest strategy is to concentrate on specific areas like downtown. Jones says after more than a dozen letters went out owners on 14th Street to tear down, clean up, or secure their buildings, four conflicts were resolved. In other neighborhoods, Jones thinks it may take the city stepping in, then seeking reimbursement later, a process governed by state law, and often taking months to complete.

During that wait, Ann Holt worries more than her customer base may be hurt.

Holt said, "Our concern is for the kids that are in the area who may walk over there and will become harmed in some kind of way."

Urban Development Director Larry Jones says funding is the main reason many property owners haven't been able to tear down their damaged buildings. He says many people have unresolved issues with insurance or are waiting for government assistance.

by Danielle Thomas

Powered by Frankly