MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Two murders, nine drug arrests, at least 100 calls for the police, all at one Whitehaven apartment complex within the last six months. The District Attorney General's office shut down the controversial Montera Park Apartments on Thursday, September 13, for the second time in 16 months. The complex has a new owner, who owned the property once before and the District Attorney has high hopes.
Typically a sign of chaos, the nuisance order and police cars could be the first sign of hope in a long time. Lavelle Dotson grew up in the complex and recently moved back, but he doesn't leave his apartment. "Look at it, there's nothing to come out to," he says, "Nothing to look forward to, other than coming home, going to sleep and praying that you get up."
Dotson says he looks over his shoulder every time he leaves his building. He's hoping Dragan Kocic's familiar face will change that. Kocic told abc24.com when he previously owned the property, "It was a thriving community, it was a community where children played."
2004 to 2006 Kocic, with Capital Equities, owned the controversial apartment complex. When he owned it the more than 900 unit complex had about 800 residents. Today there are about 100. He sold it to Wendell Jacobsen, an owner based in Utah. The properties have gone downhill since the sale.
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong says his officers respond to the area almost daily. Armstrong recounts the last six months, "Drugs, gang activity, aggravated assault, and two homicides occurring at this location."
City Councilman Harold Collins says he's tired of seeing the District Attorney being forced to step in, "We've been out here at least three times serving notice on owners who live in Utah who demonstrate they do not care what goes on here in Memphis."
On Monday, Kocic bought the property back. Along with the new ownership, came the new injunction. The new owner is dedicating $10 million to renovating the property and getting it back to a safe community. They've already kicked out squatters living in vacant apartments. Kocic says, "We live in our communities and we work in our communities, you will not see absentee ownership. You will see us working here, please give us a chance and we will not disappoint."
Dotson says if Kocic's previous ownership is any indication, the property is finally in good hands. "For a minute I thought there was no hope for the apartments," Dotson says, "I thought they would bulldoze and it would be ground zero. I guess every complex has a savior, right?"
Kocic owns two other properties in Memphis, the Lakeville Townhomes Community and the Sterling Townhomes and Apartments. He says his first priority is to get the complex up to the Court's standard. He will not be allowed to lease any apartments until the nuisance order is lifted.