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While the long-vacant Westgate Apartments have been purchased, the plans for the future of the complex purchased by We’re Going to Paris has not been publicly released.

Westgate Apartments, a former low-income apartment complex on Paris’ northwest side that city officials call an eyesore, has sold once again.

Todd Franks, managing director and founding principal at Greystone | Investment Sales Group in Dallas, announced the sale in a Sunday news release that called the complex Shiloh Terrace Apartments. Greystone represented the buyer, an opportunity zone fund in Dallas. Franks later said the fund is called We’re Going To Paris. The purchase price was undisclosed.

“The property has been vacant for more than 10 years, and the city was very helpful with permitting, planning, zoning and tax abatements to get the property back in service,” Franks said.

Opportunity zone funds allow taxpayers to invest in designated opportunity zones as a way to support economic development in distressed communities, according to the IRS. Opportunity zones were created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

A large portion of Paris is designated as an opportunity zone, including all areas west of 20th Street NE from north of Lamar Avenue to beyond Loop 286 and all areas west of 8th Street SE south of Lamar Avenue to beyond Loop 286, according to a Texas Economic Development zoning map.

In order for investors to qualify for opportunity zone fund tax breaks, purchased property must be substantially improved within 30 months from the time it’s bought. Substantial improvements are defined as additions to the basis of the property that exceed the purchase amount.

The 126-unit complex has been vacant since 2009 when the federal Housing and Urban Development program pulled its contract following notification from the Paris Housing Authority that the buildings were 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 2020. The last previous 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.

In June 2020, Westgate was sold to Rain Financial Services Inc., a Paris-based group of investors, after Paris City Council accepted a $75,000 offer. The group also sought approval from the Lamar County Commissioners’ Court, Paris Junior College Board of Regents and Paris ISD Board of Trustees because it was a tax-foreclosed property sale. At the time, City Council was told Rain Financial was interested in restoring the 8-acre property as an affordable housing development.

During the council meeting, city delinquent tax attorney Tracy Pounders of Dallas told councilors his firm tried unsuccessfully to collect taxes on the property more than a dozen years ago. A judgment was obtained in October 2019, and in January 2020, Pounders entered the property into an auction with a minimum bid requirement of $170,000. It received no offers.

Although Westgate appraised at $486,000 at the time, Pounders said it was an unfair assessment because “it will take a major investment to get it where it is habitable.”

Then-mayor Steve Clifford and then-councilor Linda Knox questioned the buyer’s intentions and whether there were guarantees the property would be rehabilitated. Pounders said Rain Financial planned to make an initial investment between $1.2 million and $2 million, developing the property building by building.

Paula Portugal, then mayor pro tem and now mayor, suggested selling the property with a timeframe contingency that there be progress toward rehabilitation or the property would revert back to the city. Ultimately, the council approved the sale without contingencies after councilors weighed in on the need for low-cost housing.

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