MEMPHIS, Tenn. — About 20 people showed their support in front of City Hall on Monday for a couple facing eviction from their condominium by a downtown hotel.
Christopher Reyes and Sarah Fleming, artists and filmmakers who have lived in their Main Street loft since 1993, are being evicted by owners of The Madison Hotel as the hotel tries to expand. Aparium Hotel Group says it owns the upstairs at 1 S. Main.
But Reyes and Fleming say they have legal documents showing they paid the mortgage on the upstairs property and should receive the title, not Aparium.
The artists are considered pioneers in the local arts community.
Pat Mitchell Worley can recall events at the artist' downtown condo.
She says Reyes was ahead of his time in seeing the future revitalization of downtown Memphis.
"He always talked about it as though he he had a vision for downtown. I see downtown now, it's exactly what he talked about," Mitchell-Worley said.
She says it's terrible that Reyes and Flemming are being forced to leave the very home and neighborhood they've been fighting for.
Joann Selvidge is another friend and supporter who says Reyes and Fleming have done nothing to deserve being kicked out.
"They bought the home for $55,000 in 1993. The mortgage was paid off, and they've put $250,000 of additional equity into their home," she said.
Reports indicate it was a deal between Reyes' mother and a downtown developer.
The property was part of a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, and the deed was technically held by a downtown group.
The understanding was that when PILOT expired, Reyes and his family would get the property, but Selvidge says that didn't happen.
"To ask them to leave in 10 days and pay $100,000 is just wrong," she said.
The couple have been backed up in their fight by developer Henry Turley, who says he sold them the property, and former Downtown Memphis Commission director Paul Morris.
“This is a home they’ve owned for 25 years and this is wrong,” one supporter said.