MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County assessor says Orange Mound is nearing the point of no return when to comes to being a thriving a community because of vacant and blighted properties.
But some are hopeful a new effort by county leaders could have a positive impact.
Orange Mound homeowner Wayne Porter works hard to make his home the pride of his neighborhood. He's not surprised, though, to know it may have done nothing to help its value.
The reason is vacant and neglected houses like the one right next door to his.
"It is what it is," Porter said. "You know, I think people have been neglectful."
Assessor Melvin Burgess says 10% of the properties in Orange Mound are vacant or blighted, and over the last 10 years property values here have dropped by 26%.
Burgess says in the meantime, surrounding neighborhoods like Cooper-Young and Chickasaw Gardens are thriving.
"The significant amount of blight and vacant lots within Orange Mound are one of the main reasons properties are spiraling down, and lends to a trend to an increase in crime," Burgess said.
He said local government owns 70% of the vacant properties, and this week he asked county commissioners to put a moratorium on tearing any down.
Burgess said county commissioners have agreed to form a task force to find ways to revitalize the neighborhood and get the properties back on the tax rolls.
He noted that the neighborhood has a proud history, as the second-largest black community outside Harlem at one time.
Wendell Patton is all for it. He grew up in a house across from Melrose High.
He once tried to sell it for close to $20,000 but says it's now worth around $11,000.
"You are not going to get anyone to move over here," he said.
Burgess says Nashville has been able to address its blight. He hopes they can do the same thing here and get new home buyers and millenials to move into the neighborhood.