Adopt-A-Lot program inspires revitalization

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

Ronnie Shack stands outside his mother's old home, a home he hired a contractor to renovate following her death ten months ago. Shack also purchased a lot from the City of Meridian's Adopt-A-Lot program just down the street from his mother's home. 

When Ronnie Shack looks around his old Hooper Street neighborhood, he doesn't see chipped paint or empty lots.

Stacks thinks of his childhood, of family reunions and the corner grocery store. He sees an opportunity.

"I grew up over there 50-something years ago," Shack said. "I've got a nice house in North Hills but I'm coming back to the neighborhood."

Shack's mother passed earlier this year, leaving her home on Hooper Street vacant. Just one block away, the City of Meridian posted a lot available for purchase through the city's Adopt-A-Lot program and Shack jumped on it. 

"I was going to let it go but my sister said, 'Let's do something,' " Shack said. "When I saw the opportunity on Hooper Street I decided to get it."

Shack works with a contractor to renovate his mother's home first but has plans for the lot down the street.

"I'm planning on building a home, maybe a modular home," Shack said. "I came up in the projects (over there) and now I'm a businessman."

Shack is one of ten new property owners in Meridian who bought lots from the city's Adopt-A-Lot program, a city program that tries to return tax-forfeited properties to the tax rolls. 

"It's all about beautification," Laura Carmichael, the city's director of Community Development, said. "It brings back neighborhood pride. You see these lots getting cleaned up and it just instills a sense and that just spreads throughout the city."

Terrell Thompson, the code enforcement officer who oversees the program, said that the city had 30 lots available when the program kicked off in April and 10 have been purchased.

"The process isn't a short process," Thompson said. "We have to go through and verify that they meet the requirements."

Applicants must be up-to-date on their own taxes as well as bills, fines or fees with the City of Meridian. They present a plan for the property as part of their application, pay a $100 administration fee and must receive the approval of the Meridian City Council. The contract has a two-year reverter clause to return the property to the city should no improvements be made. 

"The goal of Adopt-A-Lot program is to address blight," Carmichael said. "And you can see the progress. You have people excited about having property that they can bring back to life."

Thompson said many purchasers had bought lots near their own homes where they hoped their children and grandchildren could live.

"They know they won't be young chickens forever and they need someone to take care of them," Thompson said. 

Carmichael said the city hoped to add signs to lots, as Councilwoman Kim Houston recently mentioned in a council meeting, to promote program awareness. 

"This is a part of our ongoing initiatives," Carmichael said. "It is equally as important as our work in downtown -- our work in the neighborhoods. It allows us to focus on doing good work in our communities." 

Back on Hooper Street, Shack goes through his mother's old home and gives the tour. Again, Shack's vision goes beyond the painted lines on his lawn -- his future master bedroom -- and walls torn down to studs. He sees a home transformed where his family can host this year's reunion. 

"If someone sees me, they might pick up a paintbrush," Shack said. "Maybe they'll say, 'If Mr. Shack can do it -- I can do it.' "

To learn more about the Adopt-A-Lot program, please call the City of Meridian Code Enforcement Division at (601) 282-5119. 

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