Westgate apartments (copy)

The city of Paris is putting the Westgate Apartments back on the auction block. The eyesore on 7th Street NW has been vacant since 2009. 

Two apartment complexes, both labeled “eyesores,” will face very different fates headed in the new year.

Paris will host the initial auction of one tract, the Westgate Apartments, at an upcoming tax sale. Approximately 8 acres in size, the property at 635 7th Street NW in Paris is appraised at $486,830, according to a press release. The opening bid is currently estimated to be $170,500. Thirty-seven tax foreclosed properties will also be offered for resale.

“These properties have previously been put up for sale, but no one purchased them, and it’s time for them to be sold. Any reasonable bid will be considered,” Tracy Pounders, city property tax lawyer, said in the press release.

“The sale of these tax properties is giving the Paris community a real chance to give new life to our neighborhoods,” said Robert Talley, code enforcement supervisor. “Properties that were once places for dumping, high weeds and crime can again become homes for families, places of worship and community gathering places. Opportunities like these, on this scale, are rare.”

Westgate Apartments has been labeled “a long-time eyesore, public health risk and law enforcement problem.” City Council previously gave approval for the property to be auctioned at a tax sale, with a minimum bid of $170,000 to cover taxes and other penalties. If the minimum bid is not received, the city can choose to sell the property at a sheriff’s sale for a lesser amount, according to interim city manager Gene Anderson.

Westgate has been vacant since 2009 when the federal Housing and Urban Development program pulled the contract on the apartments following notification from the Paris Housing Authority that the complex was in violation of maintenance, according to an October 2009 Paris News article. Residents were moved to other facilities and Section 8 rental properties.

The complex has gone downhill from there, switching owners and eventually becoming abandoned, city code enforcement official Robert Talley said in January. The latest attempt to resuscitate Westgate came from Property Partners, which purchased the apartments in 2011. But asbestos was found during construction, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shut down the work, Talley said.

Meanwhile, Belford Apartments could face a different fate. After failing to get bids in earlier sheriff’s sales, the complex at 260 S. Main St. is headed before City Council again, City Attorney Stephanie Harris said Friday.

“We’ll get it in front of the council and decide how to proceed,” she said, adding it will be on the agenda in the near future.

Councilors previously voted to lower the minimum price from $50,000 to $20,000 in an attempt to attract a buyer for the 1915 four-story building, one of the only structures left standing after the 1916 fire.

The building is owned by Kenneth Kammer of Boomer Trends Magazine Inc. The city began litigation against Kammer in February 2018 after he accumulated more than $2 million in code enforcement penalties for failure to demolish the building. On Aug. 8, 2018, the 6th District Court of Lamar County entered a final judgment in the amount of $2,071,000. To satisfy the judgment, the city issued the order to sell the property in a sheriff’s sale.

Earlier this year, the council voted to forgive the $2 million in penalties if a new owner demolishes or stabilizes the structure within 18 months and then rehabilitates the building within five years. Along with penalty forgiveness, a rehabilitated structure would earn an additional $50,000 in city economic development incentives once it receives a certificate of occupancy. Within six months of purchase, the new owner also must clean up the grounds of all rubbish, debris, trash and overgrown vegetation.

But Realtor and Councilor Clayton Pilgrim said he sees little hope for the building’s restoration, which could cost millions, with demolition expected to cost roughly $400,000.

“The market is just not there to restore it,” Pilgrim said previously. “If it’s torn down, the owner will have a parking lot or the potential for a building in the downtown area.”

Macon Atkinson is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6963 or macon.atkinson@theparisnews.com.

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