TUPELO • The city council has heard a new proposal to renovate the former Carnation Milk building in the Mill Village neighborhood, turning the vacant structure into a low-income apartment complex for the elderly.
J. Steve Nail, a developer based in Madison, wants to pay $1,000 for a one-year purchase option on a city-owned historic property that has been vacant for years.
If Nail decides to exercise the purchase option and actually buys the property within that one-year period, he would pay $100,000, according to a draft document circulated at City Hall this week.
Nail wants to turn the Carnation building into an affordable housing project of about 40 units for people who are 55 and older.
Documents submitted to the Tupelo City Council dub the proposed project Carnation Village.
If he receives the purchase option, Nail will seek tax credits through the Mississippi Home Corporation. These tax credits help finance the construction of certain kinds of low-income housing developments.
If he isn’t awarded the credits and the project doesn’t move forward, the city of Tupelo will keep the $1,000 and will then be free to sell the Carnation building to other people or use it for other purposes.
Appearing before the Tupelo City Council Tuesday, Nail cautioned that he’s still at the beginning of a highly competitive process to earn tax credits.
“I’m not saying I can do this,” Nail said. “I’m just trying to get an option to get the process started. It takes a while.”
Nail has been involved in similar projects in Hattiesburg and Pascagoula.
The Carnation Milk plant was first constructed in 1927 and operated for over 40 years, churning out thousands of pounds of evaporated milk on a daily basis before shuttering in 1972. The construction of the plant came amid a local shift toward the dairy industry.
The city’s Oren Dunn Museum looked at relocating into the Carnation building for over six years until abandoning the idea in 2012.
Other proposals over the years have called for converting the building into a police station, jail and city offices.
The Tupelo Police Department has conducted training exercises in the vacant building.
In 2017, the city of Tupelo tore down an accessory building at the Carnation property without consulting the city’s Historic Preservation Commission or the Mill Village neighborhood association, a move that a high-ranking City Hall official at the time admitted was hasty.
The demolition bypassed procedures set in place to preserve the historic architecture of the Mill Village neighborhood.
The Tupelo City Council will vote next Tuesday on whether to give Nail a purchase option. During a work session of the City Council Tuesday afternoon, council members present seemed supportive of the plan.
“This, I think, would enhance that area,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis.