Alongside Roscoe's BBQ in Phoenix sits a string of tiny, low-income rental units owned by Jackson County's next district attorney and her husband, Beth and Michael Heckert.
Patched windows, old pipes, tattered siding and peeling paint represent the exterior of most of the structures, which the Heckerts bought for $293,000 in 2004. The purchase included the building that houses Roscoe's.
"The outsides of the buildings are a little rough," Michael Heckert admitted. But he said while he has repaired and maintained the inside of the six rentals as best he can, he's been hesitant to make repairs to the outside because he is working with the city's urban renewal agency to obtain facade improvement funds.
The Heckerts disputed a recent television news story that depicted them as slumlords, a claim their tenants and Phoenix city officials also deny.
"(Michael Heckert) has always done what I've asked him to do with the restaurant," said Will Moore, owner of Roscoe's BBQ.
One tenant who did not wish to identify herself said she was "perfectly fine" in her little rental.
"I'm happy," she said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert, who will succeed Mark Huddleston for the county's top spot in law enforcement in January, said, "the place was really run down" when she and her husband bought it eight years ago.
"The first thing we did was put new roofs on the buildings, replaced the heating and air-conditioning units and rebuilt the commercial kitchen in the restaurant," she said.
The tiny studio apartment featured in the story had not yet been repaired after the previous tenant left, Michael Heckert said. Water damage caused issues with the flooring. Other problems had built up over the six years it was occupied by an ill, elderly tenant, he said.
"I offered a couple times to move him into this unit. But he wouldn't have it," Michael Heckert said, adding the unit has been stripped down and is in the process of being repaired.
Beth Heckert said Friday a water leak caused mold to grow in an unoccupied, ground-level storage unit but she had called a plumber to repair it. A plumber was on-site Monday fixing a bathroom sink in one of the second-floor units.
Stepping around a new Jeld-Wen door propped outside, Michael Heckert on Monday pointed out new countertops, carpeting, drapes, paint and plaster inside the neighboring studio apartment.
"This is how the units look when we rent them," he said.
Moore acknowledged the apartments need some TLC, especially the unit the elderly man lived in. He said he thinks complaints came from prior tenants and customers who didn't like walking by the apartment to get to his restaurant.
Beth Heckert said they have had to evict tenants in the past for nonpayment, but denied tenants have been kicked out for voicing any problems or complaints.
"Our tenants call us all the time," she said. "Our units are very old."
Phoenix City Manager Eli Naffah said there are no code violations on file against the Main Street property. The city's building inspector has not visited the property because "no tenant has called the city to complain," Naffah said.
Marla Cates, executive director of the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency, said she and Michael Heckert have been discussing for one-and-a-half years whether the property might qualify for up to $25,000 in grants and matching funds as part of a downtown core rehabilitation and facade improvement project.
Cates said the main structure that houses Roscoe's is a landmark building — the old Furry Hotel. She said some of the porch columns and upper rooms are still as they were when constructed in the late 1800s. The two center apartments used to be garages for Model T's, Michael Heckert said.
To qualify for grant funding, siding, window, masonry and other exterior repairs to the property would need to be approved by the historic restoration team, Cates said.
"It's a really key historic property for the city," she said.
Cates said there are big changes coming to that area of Phoenix, including the possible addition of a small street at the rear of the property, which would change access to Roscoe's and the apartments.
Cates said Michael Heckert had talked about putting landscaping in front of the property, and the city is considering installing a bump-out to accommodate the idea.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email email@example.com.