The owner of the home in South Memphis that served as Aretha Franklin’s birthplace has paid off all of the outstanding property taxes on the location, paving the way for redevelopment of the property. Vera Lee House is the owner of the property, located on 406 Lucy Ave. in Memphis’ Soulsville neighborhood. House paid off the final $1,500 owed for assorted taxes and fines for weed-cutting on Monday, according to House’s spokesperson and reporting from Commercial Appeal.
The spokesperson, whose name is Patricia Rogers, revealed that House paid $600 of the fine from her own pocket, while an amount totaling $1,488.78 was raised by local pastors and donors to pay the taxes and fines. “This payment will definitely send a message that she is a major stakeholder in the property,” Rogers said.
House’s role in the future plans for the clapboard cottage that was built in the 1920s has been a point of debate, even before Franklin’s death on August 16 at the age 0f 76. But, as plans have accelerated in the wake of the Queen of Soul’s death, House and her representatives have insisted that they have a stake in any future plans for the rehabilitation and development of the property.
At one point the house was placed into receivership by the local Environmental Court, after which Jeffrey Higgs — executive director of the LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corp. — took an interest in the home’s preservation. Speaking on Tuesday, Higgs revealed that he and his backers will have a plan together by October 16, when they will speak to Judge Patrick Dandridge of the local Environmental Court.
At the same time, Rogers said that House will be taking similar measures for plans of her own to help play a part in the property’s redevelopment.
“We have met with a potential sponsor who will donate materials to rehab the house,” said Rogers. “And I just talked to an area pastor about helping as well. We’re in talks with a construction company and doing the roofing, siding, and flooring.”
While Rogers has said that she has not heard from Higgs since August 28, the last time they were in Environmental Court, Higgs is saying quite the opposite, telling Commercial Appeal that he speaks to House on a daily basis. House had lived in Franklin’s former home for about 30 years, during which time she raised 12 children. After she left the location, the property remained unoccupied and eventually fell into disrepair.
Those leading the rehab effort are looking to turn the home — where Franklin was born in 1942 and lived for two years — into a memorial for the Queen of Soul. There was a vigil held outside the home on the day of Franklin’s funeral.