Abandoned Oakhaven complex to get face-lift, reopen

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The covered sign at the entryway gives you a good idea about what's inside the apartment complex.

The LakeView Park Apartments, formerly Somerset Park, has been abandoned for years.

The complex was plagued by crime and suffered ownership trouble and changes.

Many of the units are dilapidated, and remnants of those that caught fire are still apparent.

"Once it went down, like I said, it became an eyesore," said Oakhaven resident Mary Donald.

But Donald has lived in the area for more than 20 years and said that wasn't always the case.

"Back in the day, it was a vibrant place, it was a popular place, and a lot of people lived over here. It was once of the core areas of Oakhaven."

Donald and other residents listened as new owners described plans to renovate the units and restore that vibrancy at a meeting Wednesday.

Residents were able to ask questions.

Representatives from the Memphis Police Department, Code Enforcement and the Blight Authority were among the many people present.

The new ownership group bought the property roughly six months ago.

Moe Abourched said the complex has been converted to condominiums and each unit will be rehabbed.

"We're tearing them down to the studs, everything in there will be brand new," Abourched explained as he spoke at the meeting.

Renovations have already started and will happen in phases.

Abourched said they're hoping the switch to condos will mean greater stability.

"Memphis does have a high ratio of rentals, and what we're trying to do is actually help promote home ownership. We are working with a couple of banks locally to see how we can work together to create a qualifying process."

County Commissioner Eddie Jones, who put Wednesday's meeting together, said battling blight means finding accountable landlords.

He said he likes what Abourched and his team have done so far.

"They want to come in here, do a good job, they're not just focused on this particular property, there are others they're interested in looking at," explained Jones.

But Donald said the community has been let down by previous owners.

"The main concern is for them to make sure that they do what they say they're going to do."

She said having so many stakeholders at the table is a good first step.

"I believe that once they get the units together, the way, in the manner that they said they are, that it may be a conduit to help this area build back up."

According to Abourched, total renovations will take up to two to three years to complete.

The first phase will include the area closest to the clubhouse, leasing office and pool, which should be finished by the end of 2016.

He said they'll use the first few units as models and begin selling the others.

Abourched said they hope to have a website up to market the property and begin presales in the coming weeks.

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