The final block of Main Street: A Problem or Potential?

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

The long-vacant and dilapidated properties on the fourth and final block of Main Street have been an object of curiosity and interest within the community for years.

Many are curious as why the buildings haven’t been demolished or at least brought up to code. Some have even grown accustomed to the scene, which has been described as a “third world country.” A few have even considered purchasing some of the parcels, only later declining after getting a closer look at the condition of the buildings.

Regardless if you want the buildings torn down or if you want to see a revival within the structures, one thing is certain. The skeleton remains of what was once flourishing businesses continue to rot away amidst prosperity just blocks away.

“It would tickle me to death if the buildings were just torn down and started over,” said Paul Adams, who owns a number of properties along Main Street. “I actually think it hurts (my investments). But I don’t really know where you would start to get anything done.”

Russ Carter, the city building inspector, said he knows citizens get tired of hearing “it’s a lengthy process” when it comes to the city demolishing dilapidated structures. But he said it’s a truth that is sometimes hard to hear.

“The process takes 60 days at least,” Carter said. “But with the buildings on that final block, they have switched owners so many times. I will be right in the middle of the process, and a new owner would come along. Then, I have to start the process all over again. And I have to follow the rules to remain legal.”

Carter also said that a structure typically has to sit for five years before it is a deemed a menace to the city.

Carter said there are only two properties within that block that have went through the complete and legal process to be demolished. The first two parcels on the left side of the block could be torn down today legally.

“I have completed the process on those two buildings,” Carter said. “But the city has not torn them down yet for whatever reason. But my work has been completed.”

Based on recent appraisal records, all of the buildings within that final block that are vacant and dilapidated are valued at a total of $67,140.

The right side of the final block is completely abandoned with all structures slowly crumbling to the ground. In fact, the outside brick wall of the former Ford dealership building is beginning to curve and lean with many bricks on the verge of falling. Some are worried the structure will soon collapse.

But it would be the first time.

The roof and front part of the Henick building collapsed in May of 2018 to the dismay of many within the community. The building held a lot of history for the Yazoo community. Wash Rose, a former slave, came to Yazoo City from South Carolina in 1866 and started a blacksmith shop in the two-story brick building around 1870. The building was one of the oldest remaining commercial buildings in Yazoo City, having survived the Fire of 1904.

The Henick building is now owned by a real estate investment firm in Los Angeles.

Out-of-town owners also pose another problem for Carter. The owners of the buildings on the right side of the block, for example, do not live in Yazoo City. The closest owner lives in Bentonia. There are also no delinquent taxes on those properties.

“It becomes an out of sight, out of mind, issue with a lot of these owners,” Carter said.

A number of trends also develop when it comes to dilapidated properties. Not only are these public safety issues, but the abandoned lots can also pull down property values in a neighborhood. It would be said that rundown structures could also discourage others from investing in their properties, setting a lower bar for what is acceptable.

Carter said he has over 100 dilapidated homes on his list. But he said the city is in the middle of a blight partnership grant program that could assist with the demolishing of these structures.

“The program is state-funded and it assists cities with tearing down or bring these properties up to code,” Carter said. “But the program does not accept commercial properties. It has to be residential. The only way the final block of Main Street could apply in this grant program is if they city reverts the zoning back to residential.”

Carter said there are two property owners within the block who are attempting to dismantle their buildings.

“But that takes time too because they are literally having to remove brick by brick because so other properties next to them share a wall,” Carter said.

There are a few citizens who see a future within the final block. One of those optimistic believers is Jett Griffin, owner of Downtown Market.

“I see potential,” he said. “I don’t know if it can be done or if anybody would have the money to back it up, but let’s save the facades of those buildings. Something could be done behind them, an eating area, a park or something. Other cities have done it. Why can’t we? We have people come in this store from all over the country and world. That could be something else they could enjoy.”

Adams said he would be interested in seeing the block be used for something centered around the Blues.

“Blues fans travel all over the state looking at places,” Adam said. “I would like to see something that showcases all the Blues musicians from all over the state in one location. It could be something else that people can do or look at while in Yazoo City. People are coming here anyway, but this could be something extra.”

Carter said he hopes citizens understand that he has no other employees within his department. And he hopes citizens will consider the process that can restart within a moment’s notice.

“I am a one-man show, but I am working,” Carter said. “I am going to get through this blight partnership program, then I am going to hit the downtown area again as well as other properties all over the city. I can only do so much, but I am doing something.”