Partners, Residents Celebrate Apartments

By SUE WATSON | The South Reporter |

Each partner involved in rehabilitation of the MI College Apartment Complex in north Holly Springs had words of praise for the project and developers – the Wishcamper Companies & Rocky Mountain Development Group.

The physical rehabilitation of the apartment complex was celebrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Nov. 18, and the complex was renamed Spring Gardens Apartments.

The physical rehabilitation is the first step and the next step will be the transformation of the community, said Rick Wishcamper, president of Rocky Mountain Development Group. Wishcamper Companies and Rocky Mountain Development Group jointly own the property. The companies are privately owned.

“It is an amazing project – the culmination of a lot of work with many partners to make this happen,” Wishcamper said. “We are now the proud owner of this project.”

Before the apartments were rebuilt and the sewer lines replaced, 60 of the 100 units were boarded up, the sewer was backed up, and hazardous material used in the construction had to be removed.

“Quite simply, it was a very difficult place to live and the people who lived here suffered,” he said.

The property underwent a $6 million transformation, he said. Transformation of the community is the next step and will include a mentoring program for children ages 12 and 13, community gardens, and other programs to improve the lives of those who live in the apartments. The apartments have nice, safe playground equipment for children, a community center, and on-site security and oversight.

All units are currently occupied in the renovated complex, said Jason Spellings with Wishcamper Companies in Jackson. And there is a waiting list.

Mayor Andre’ DeBerry was pleased to see a dream come true and the fact that the apartments were rehabilitated a month earlier than deadline. He revealed how the project was dreamed forward locally.

“I was campaigning for my third term as mayor and walked through the complex,” he said. “I wept in the car when I left here on my way back home. I felt this should not be. How could we allow people in 2009 to live in deplorable conditions?”

By Chance, Rick Wishcamper and Jason Spellings were at Rust College discussing other projects and the mayor offered them a tour of the apartments – a drive-through, Spellings said.

“A few weeks later, the process began,” the mayor said. “This project moved with lightning speed. The Mississippi Development Authority and Housing and Urban Development and Wishcamper went to work. This is more than a physical project; this is intervention.”

Managers with Patton and Taylor Construction praised the City of Holly Springs for helping move the project along – the public works director, Holly Springs Utility Department, the fire chief and police chief.

Maury McPhillips with the Mississippi Development Authority, said the project was unusual in how partners collaborated. He introduced four residents who have lived in the apartments since they were built in 1972 – Clemmie McFadden, Patricia Hannah, Joyce Crain and Larry Boxley.

Hannah said she raised two children in the apartment complex – experienced hard times and bad times.

“But it’s been good,” she said. “I’m still here. In the beginning it was really nice and now it’s nice again.”

Crain, who started out in Apartment #1, said the apartments were beautiful when first built.

“It feels real good. I love the showers,” she said. “God couldn’t have done any better.”

Wishcamper recognized “Clencie Cotton with Rust College for planting the seed with the mayor” and the college and Bryan Shumway, “who got us up here.”

Shumway is vice president of Wishcamper Companies.

In explaining the partnership, Spellings said the Mississippi Development Authority provided a long-term, interest-free loan to the developer and that the city is the fiduciary agent. The property manager, Tesco Properties of Memphis, was already managing the property as a favor to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and will remain as property.

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