Assisted living facility still on hold

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In mid-June, developer Gayle Evans announced his plans forbuilding an assisted living home downtown at the corner ofWhitworth Avenue and Monticello Street where the May 24, 2007, fireleveled four downtown businesses.

That was before another unexpected turn. Evans said the projectis still on hold now because he had a heart attack, and his medicalcondition has not been conducive to moving forward with thedevelopment yet.

A “For Sale” sign put up by local realtor Betsy Smith at thefront corner of the lot recently began to draw attention, bringingspeculation that Evans might not still be interested in theproject.

“Just as soon as I can do it, I’m going to do my best to get itdone,” he said Friday. “I’m also building one in Natchez, and we’vegot the land cleared over there, and it’s on hold too.”

Evans, who sought approval from the board of aldermen to buy theproperty and put an assisted living facility there although manysaid he didn’t need permission, ran into some local opposition tothe development. Dissenters pointed to parking and downtownbuilding design continuity as possible conflicts, but the boardfinally gave the project the go-ahead in April after Evans madeseveral changes to his initial project plans.

Mayor Bob Massengill said city officials are hoping the projectwill, in fact, come to completion as Evans had presented, and ifnot, that something equally as integral to the downtownrevitalization will go in that spot.

“We’d love to see what Mr. Evans was planning materialize, andif not we hope someone purchases that corner so that something thatwill be important to the downtown can be put there,” he said.

Another obstacle arose when the alley behind the Brookhaven Bikeand Sport Shop turned out to be less of an access and more of aroadblock for Evans’ assisted living center. Evans said the way hisplans were set, it would close off access for work trucks and othervehicles to the bike shop, and that he was told by city officialsthat access could not be blocked through that alley.

At that point, Evans said, the obvious answer would be to buythe lot containing the bike shop, which he said he would try todo.

“I’m still planning on doing it, I’m just putting it back alittle longer because of my health,” he said, adding that he hascontinued talks with the Lofton family, who owns half of the lot.The other half where Posey Place used to be is owned by JanBullock.

Realtor Betsy Smith said she has gotten other inquiries on thelot, though so far none have panned out to be serious.

“We haven’t had a serious inquiry, though several people havesaid they have a plan for that lot,” she said. “Nobody else hasmade an offer that ended up being considered.”

Meanwhile, city officials still see the corner as a locationthat has great potential to Brookhaven’s historic downtowndistrict.

We’ve got so many good things happening in the downtown area,”Massengill said. “We need something vital and vibrant on thatcorner, our hope is that in the next few months, somethingdevelops.”