Beechwood public housing units being torn down

Published 2:32 pm Thursday, April 21, 2011

Workcrews with Tristar Demolition of Norcross, Ga., on Wednesday began demolishing the Beechwood Apartments, a public housing complex that was a landmark here for 40 years and is run by the Picayune Housing Authority.

Picayune Housing Authority Executive Director Mary E. Davis, 89, was on hand at 1 p.m. when the demolition began and, with the help of Tristar personnel, mounted a huge backhoe and brought down the first big pile of bricks to begin the demolition.

Picayune Housing Authority has managed the complex since 1983.

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The complex, constructed by private developers in 1971, was later acquired by the federal Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD), and then in January, 1983, was purchased from HUD by the Picayune Housing Authority here, said Davis.

The land on which the apartments are located is 16th section school lands and is leased from the Picayune school board.

The apartments are at 100 Beechwood Drive just off South Beech Street near Jackson Landing Road. There were originally 80 dwelling units and one administration building in the complex. The complex is visible from Beech Street.

On June 6, 2001, three buildings containing 24 units were approved by HUD for demolition, leaving seven buildings with 56 dwelling units. On Jan. 24, 2010, fire destroyed the “G” building, which contained eight one-bedroom dwelling units.

Apartment residents were relocated to other Housing Authority units as they became available, said Davis.

Davis said that on July 7, 2009, the Picayune Housing Authority submitted a demolition application to HUD, covering the 56 dwelling units and one non-dwelling administrative unit.

The City of Picayune had advised the Housing Authority of their support by letter on June 11, 2009, said Davis, and the reason for the proposed demolition was that the units were obsolete as to physical condition, location and other factors, and that no reasonable program of modifications was cost-effective to return the complex, or a portion of it, to useful life.

Davis said the company has 180 days, according to the contract, to complete the clearance, and after that is accomplished, the Housing Authority will accept proposals from a private developer to construct what is now termed “affordable housing” on the site.

Demolition of the property is costing $297,500 and is being funded with a HUD grant.