Memorial Drive target of DeKalb's slum removal

DeKalb County officials determined to bulldoze a vacant Memorial Drive condominium complex, saying it has been a haven for drug activity and squatters.

County commissioners voted late last week to seize the 146-unit Blue Sky Condominiums complex at 3106 Memorial Drive in Decatur, which they say has been a target of mortgage fraud.

Blue Sky is part of DeKalb’s initiative to remove slums and blight using stimulus money through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, said Margaret Britton, spokeswoman for Commissioner Larry Johnson.

County officials insist that the demolition will leave no one homeless, other than the squatters.

“The owners -- and there have been multiple owners of these units -- either lost the units through foreclose or sale,” Britton said. “The property is now vacant, which created an issue with squatters and posed a safety concern for the abutting neighborhoods.”

Blue Sky was built in 1965 as an apartment complex, but was later broken up and sold as individual condos.

Since then, police have raided the building several times, making numerous arrests for drugs and other crimes, Britton said. The county has also had problems with delinquent taxes and water utility liens at the site, commissioners said.

The commission is paying Real Estate Alliance Partners/Pellerin and Salomon Real Estate Services $741,200 for the Blue Sky project. The project is part of a $3.24-million contract with Real Estate Alliance.

Real Estate Alliance, one of several developers hired with stimulus funds, said it is focused on renovating residential areas around East Lake Terrace.

“We’re doing the best we can to mitigate the negative impacts of foreclosures on neighborhoods,” said Denis Pellerin, co-founder of Real Estate Alliance. “Foreclosures usually attract abandonments, crime, decay and lower property values. That’s what is happening with the Blue Sky project. It’s severely impacting the neighborhood surrounding it.”

Pellerin said the county is still trying to decide the best use for the 10-acre property, but he doesn’t foresee another condo project.

A fence and 24-hour security is now guarding the property until the demolition starts.