Old Hattiesburg High work about 40 percent complete

By HASKEL BURNS,

It’s been a little more than a year and a half since Jackson-based Intervest Corporation acquired the former Hattiesburg High School building on Main Street, with the intention to turn the facility into age-restricted apartment units.

If all goes according to plan, it’ll only be another few months before the project – now known as Preservation Crossing – will be up and running, with construction expected to finish in April or May of next year.

“We’re about 40 percent complete,” Intervest Vice President Pam Davenport said. “They started the ground site work in the back last week, and it’s coming along nicely.

“They’ve got a lot of the walls shored up, and the plumbing and all that’s in place. I have no complaints – I’ve loved every bit of it, and it’s coming along real good.”

The facility, which was acquired by Intervest in April 2018, is being constructed by Harris Construction Services for residents 55 years of age or older. The $15.5 million development will offer 74 apartments that are 575 to 800 square feet per unit, including 56 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units with a full kitchen, full bath and an on-site manager.

Other amenities will include a community courtyard, a gazebo and sitting area, a business room, a fitness room and a community room. Officials plan to keep rent between $200 and $600 per unit to provide affordable living to residents.

“We’re excited,” Davenport said. “We’re looking at another one of this sort in Tupelo, which is real exciting, and I cannot wait to see a more finalized property (in Hattiesburg).

“We’re picking out flooring and walls and carpeting, so it’s real exciting. Of course, I’ve been excited this whole time, but it’s a little more visual now that we’re seeing walls being constructed, as opposed to beams.”

Even though the project is still underway, Davenport has already heard from several possible tenants who are interested in the site.

“We put them on our list, and we’re going to start doing some initial reaching out in November, and then some pre-leasing probably in February,” she said.

To help fund the $10 million project, officials received gap funding and federal historic tax credits from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Hunt Capital Partners of Los Angeles, California, committed $13.2 million in federal low-income housing tax credit, federal historic tax credit and state historic tax credit equity financing for the project.

Mississippi Home Corporation provided $500,000 through its Housing Trust Fund, while Key Bank provided a construction loan of $10.3 million and Financial Institutions Housing Opportunity Pool provided a permanent loan of $1 million.

To celebrate the start of construction, officials held a groundbreaking at the site back in April.

“There are certainly folks who contributed to this project and stayed faithful and consistent, even when it seemed like it might not happen,” Mayor Toby Barker said at the groundbreaking. “I can’t say enough about the so many talented people who are here today that are working on this.

“We have the community arts center that’s going to be right across the street (at the former Hattiesburg American building); we have more apartments going in down the way. We’re quickly becoming a premier town, and it’s great to have an even better downtown, and this adds to that flavor. We’re excited about the future.”

Construction on the original multiple-story building at 846 North Main Street began in 1911. The facility was used as a school until 1959, after which it served as a headquarters for Hattiesburg Public School District and was home to an antiques mall until 2001. The building, which has remained vacant since then, was heavily damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and again in 2007 by arson.

The facility was named a Mississippi Landmark in 1986 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The historic aspect of the building will continue during renovation, as officials plan to keep the frame intact and build around it.

“As I look around, I see so many faces of people who played a role in getting us here today,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association, in a previous story. “This project has been a long time in the making, and we’re so, so happy to finally get it underway.”