JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Casa Grande, translated, means “big house”. It’s also the name of an abandoned apartment complex in south Jackson and it has become a big mess.
The name probably rings a bell because 3 On Your Side has checked out numerous complaints about it over the years.
The Casa Grande pool was the centerpiece of the apartment complex -- parties, celebrations and just plain fun. These were fond memories for Michelle Keefer and her family when they lived here in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Built in 1972, the 89 unit, two story facility was the place to live.
“We moved about 20 years ago,” said Michelle Keefer. "When my daughter got old enough, we bought a house.”
That house isn’t far from the apartment complex and those good old days at the pool.
If you look at the pool today, you wouldn’t want to get near it, much less get into it. If you were to get into it, you’d probably come out with some sort of very serious illness or worse -- that’s what neighbors are afraid of, especially because there are children in this neighborhood.
Sykes Elementary School is right down the street.
The complex is in south Jackson, west of Interstate 55, taking up a full block on the corner of Terry Road and Sykes Road -- not far from Daniel Lake Church and Jackson Fire Station #11 on Terry Road.
“It’s a shame," Michelle Keefer said. "We lived here for eight years prior to my daughter being born and the condition that it’s in now, it’s a shame.”
It’s absolutely unbelievable now. What used to be a parking lot for Casa Grande Apartments, is now, literally, a dumping ground. There’s a mound of old roofing material neatly stacked and beside it, a pile of clippings from someone’s yard work.
“And you have some homeless people and I mean, it’s some addicts that stays out here in these apartments," said Shirley Jones, who lives just two houses away from what’s left of the Casa Grande apartments. "What if one of them grabs one of those children?”
We met one of the homeless people Shirley Jones was talking about -- his name is James Flemming.
“Just whenever I can’t find no other place to be, I would come here,” said Flemming.
It’s his temporary home sometimes, but even Flemming is outraged over the condition.
“It’s bad, really bad,” said Flemming.
We’ve documented the decline of this apartment complex over the years and our cameras were rolling in October 2014 when tenants were forced out because of an $11,000 water bill unpaid by the owners of Casa Grande at the time.
Michelle Keefer’s mom, Janet Kilpatrick, makes almost every monthly town hall meeting at JPD’s Candlestick precinct to complain about the place she used to call home.
“They stole all the stuff out of the walls, bust in the walls, took all the copper and everything out of it,” said Kilpatrick. "I mean, that place is ridiculous.”
And, Kilpatrick says it just keep getting worse.
“Something need to be done about this," said Shirley Jones. "It’s been going on for too long and just a couple of weeks ago, some children or somebody set the apartments on fire.”
So, why has it been going on so long and why isn’t anything being done about it?
“We want to find a way to be more aggressive and the way Casa Grande looks right now, it shouldn’t be a misdemeanor, it should be a felony,” said Jackson city councilman Aaron Banks.
Banks inherited the Casa Grande problem when he became a Jackson city councilman representing Ward 6, the area where he grew up. Earlier this year, he proposed a “Clean and Safe School Zone Ordinance.”
“Specifically wrote this because of Casa Grande," explained Banks. "Anything that was in a square mile radius of a school zone would be stiffer penalties; not only stiffer fines, but even jail time. But the problem is, how do we hold the individual accountable if they keep switching LLC’s?”
And that's the problem. There is no individual to be held accountable.
“It’s unfortunate because we have companies that come in that really don’t care about the community that they’re in," added Banks. "They leave it there. They don’t want to address and be responsible and it falls on the city’s back to be able to address.”
Addressing the problem? Well, it’s not cheap.
“And the problem is, the more and more that gets stacked up -- while we’re waiting on trying to or while the administration is waiting to try to identify the LLC -- the price to clean it up becomes higher and higher and so last I heard, I think, it was somewhere in the tune of $1.6 million just to clean up that property," said Banks. "$1.6 million? $1.6 million just to address and it may be more when you talk about the condition of the buildings. There may be asbestos and some of the other things that are there.”
So, what do frustrated residents do in the interim?
Banks begs the dumpers to quit dumping and he encourages citizens to take tag numbers, pictures if necessary, and report them to city officials. He also welcomes volunteers to help clean up the Casa Grande mess.
This is not the solution Shirley Jones and Michelle Keefer want to hear.
“Please do something about this because it’s the safety of these children and, like I said, I have a little girl and you know she want to be outside playing and people hanging out over here," said Jones. "They throwing stuff out over here -- that’s not safe.”
Michelle Keefer said, “I like for it to be cleaned up, demolished or repaired to what it originally looked like,” said Keefer.
We’ll keep you posted.
Now, remember that abandoned mobile home park on I-55 south we investigated in August? We went back to Shady Creek and we found nothing has changed. It’s still an eyesore.
However, 3 On Your Side spoke with Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Jackson and he said that an LLC out of Las Vegas, Prime Source, has been identified as the owner.
The city will take them to court January 8, then it goes before city council to declare the property a public nuisance.
At some point after that, bids will go out to either weed and clean or demolish.
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