Over the past 11 decades, Hattiesburg residents have seen multiple iterations of the former Hattiesburg High School building on Main Street, from serving as the flagship school of the Hattiesburg Public School District to housing the district’s administrative offices and even an antiques shop.
One June 25, officials cut the ribbon for the renovated building’s newest purpose: Preservation Crossing, an age-restricted apartment facility that features 80 housing units for senior citizens.
“We now have another downtown housing option, particularly for seniors, that brings in a demographic that we haven’t seen,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “They can enjoy our downtown, partake of our restaurants and even our bars, and the Saenger Theater, and the soon-to-be Gordons Creek Commons right across the street here.
“All of those things are coming together at the right time, and ultimately I believe this is a testament to what we can do when Hattiesburg pulls together, when we work with other and for each other. When we are of one mind, when we pull together, we can make big things happen. That’s the Hattiesburg way.”
The facility, which was acquired by Jackson-based Intervest in April 2018, was renovated by Harris Construction Services for residents 55 years of age or older. The $15.5 million development offers 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 onsite manager.
Other amenities include a community courtyard, a gazebo and sitting area, a business room, a fitness room and a community room. Rent is maintained at between $200 and $600 per unit to provide affordable living to residents.
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.
“People that are my age, who are retiring and needing housing, there’s a huge shortage,” Intervest president Steve Nail said. “This is the only way that we could generate this type of a complex for the elderly.
“We’ve got some legislation drafted to try to do a state credit for elderly housing; there’s a great need for that.”
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.
After the arson, Metro Crime Stoppers offered a $10,000 reward, which was later increased to $12,500 with the help of contributions from local business owners. Two high school-aged students were eventually arrested for the crime.
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 continued during renovation, as officials have kept the frame intact and built around it.
“It’s awesome to be here to celebrate the opening of Preservation Crossing,” said Chad Newell, president of the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg. “It’s a wonderful testament to always remaining hopeful; I think that’s a great way of putting it when we think about where we’ve been with this building since Hurricane Katrina and the fire and where we are today.
“After the building was damaged in Katrina and ravaged by a fire, some would have written off he building’s viability, and many people probably said it would never come to life again. But look at where we are today – it’s pretty amazing.”