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Aretha Franklin’s birthplace home closer to preservation plan

By Published: June 11, 2019 1:45 PM CT
<strong>An Environmental Court judge appears ready to approve a receiver&rsquo;s plan to stabilize and preserve Aretha Franklin's birthplace home for potential reuse later. The court has set&nbsp;a hearing for Aug. 6 to hear the final cost estimate to stabilize the home at 406 Lucy Ave.</strong> (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

An Environmental Court judge appears ready to approve a receiver’s plan to stabilize and preserve Aretha Franklin's birthplace home for potential reuse later. The court has set a hearing for Aug. 6 to hear the final cost estimate to stabilize the home at 406 Lucy Ave. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

There are no grand plans for Aretha Franklin’s birthplace home in Memphis, but a judge appears ready to approve a receiver’s plan to stabilize and preserve it for potential reuse later.

City of Memphis staff attorney Steve Barlow told Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Patrick Dandridge on Tuesday that the court-appointed receiver of Franklin’s birth home had funds available to “stabilize, protect and preserve” the property.

The city, Barlow said, has made a preliminary review of those plans for approval.

Dandridge set yet another hearing for Tuesday, Aug. 6, to hear the final cost estimate to stabilize the property at 406 Lucy Ave. and the full details. 

The one-year anniversary of Franklin’s death is Aug. 16.

The receiver, Jeffrey Higgs, executive director of South Memphis Renewal Community Development Corp., was not required to be present at the hearing. Barlow and attorney Marty Regan, representing the homeowner, Vera House, were both present.

“After a long time of pursuing a lot of possible paths for a full rehab or a full museum at the site, we’ve all realized that the best that we can do is to preserve, protect and stabilize the structure,” Barlow said after the hearing. “So that at some point in the future, when someone has a great idea and the money to back it up, it would be in a place where somebody could take it from there.”

In court, Barlow said the rear of the structure was severely damaged from a fire and had been demolished; wall boards now enclose the back of the property. The roof is being covered by a tarp and has leaks. He also said there is no heating, air conditioning, plumbing, pipes, kitchen or bathroom in the home.

Barlow said the stabilization would include getting it “dry,” “safe” and preventing further deterioration.

“As soon as the contract is ready, the receiver will be asking the judge to approve the receiver to move forward with this stabilize plan,” Barlow said. “The court has asked for it to be a short-term, start and finish, get the job done, get it secure kind of a plan, so that’s what we expect that the receiver will be submitting.”

From the city’s perspective, it has gone from a potential demolition case due to neglect, to a situation to where the court has authorized a nonprofit to stabilize the structure and preserve it for the future.

“So, from the city’s perspective, that’s a win,” Barlow said. “It’s not everything that we had hoped, to the extent that everybody, I think, in our community would like to see more, but it’s a win because with this plan the property will be stabilized and preserved.”

Topics

Steve Barlow Jeffrey Higgs Patrick Dandrige Shelby County Environmental Court
Elle Perry

Elle Perry

Elle Perry covers Hickory Hill, Orange Mound, South Memphis and Whitehaven for The Daily Memphian. The Memphis native and two-time University of Memphis graduate has written for publications including The Memphis Business Journal, Memphis Flyer and High Ground News, and previously served as coordinator of The Teen Appeal.


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