Regions Banking on early 2019 completion for mortgage centerBy HASKEL BURNS,
Right at a year ago, Gov. Phil Bryant and other state and local representatives announced a major project for west Hattiesburg and Lamar County: a new $23 million Regions Bank operations facility at the corner of Lincoln Road and Lamar Boulevard.
As spring approaches, the facility’s expected opening date of early 2019 seems to be viable, as site preparation is complete and company officials are working to form and pour the building pad. Next comes exterior walls and roof work, with interior work expected to start later in the year.
“So the company is progressing right along at the schedule as they intended, so things look good from their end,” said Todd Jackson, executive vice president of economic development at the Area Development Partnership.
In addition, Hattiesburg engineers have completed designs for water and sewer to the 10-acre site, and are working through construction phases to extend those services to the proper locations.
To help accommodate the expected increase of traffic in the area, Hattiesburg and Lamar County officials are in the process of beginning a project that will widen Lincoln Road to three lanes from Hegwood Road to past Lamar Boulevard.
“They’ve recently completed the appraisals and evaluations required to purchase that right-of-way, and now they’re entering into the right-of-way acquisition phase of that project,” Jackson said. “So that project is a little farther out, (as to) when that construction can actually start.
“To be honest, it really depends on how quickly, or how long it takes, to do the right-of-way acquisition and actually acquire the right-of-way necessary to expand that roadway.”
Meanwhile, work on Lamar Boulevard will continue during the next 18-24 months while city officials upgrade the road’s drainage system, as well as its 6-inch base of gravel and 2-inch layer of asphalt. In a video posted in late March to Facebook and YouTube, Mayor Toby Barker said city workers will soon begin construction on a sewer line that will run parallel to Lamar Boulevard.
“This will serve the businesses along this route, including the new Regions facility,” he said. “It will also include a new sewer main.
“Later this year, we hope to begin construction on a new road and new drainage. This road will be much more substantial, with a 12-inch base of gravel mixed with lime and a 6-inch layer of asphalt, which should support this road for years to come.”
Jackson said the road projects shouldn’t interfere with Regions’ plans to open in the first quarter of next year.
“They’re still moving forward per their schedule with no issues,” he said. “The roads should not impact their schedule at all.
“Really, the roads are not a hindrance, and (won’t) in any way impact the construction of the building. Obviously, the banks would love the roads constructed as quickly as possible, but they understand that there’s a lot of things in the works that have to happen for all of that to come to fruition.”
The new 75,0000-square-foot Regions facility will initially house 320 employees who will relocate from two of Regions’ three downtown facilities. Bank officials also plan to create 90 new jobs at the west Hattiesburg location.
Regions will continue to provide a full-service location downtown, while local developer Rob Tatum will purchase the two vacated downtown buildings and lease them back to the bank while construction of the new facility is underway. Tatum – who also developed the Hub City Lofts downtown – has initial plans to turn the Forrest Tower and Kress buildings into mixed-use facilities, with mainly studio and one-bedroom apartments along with commercial/retail space.
“We see this new facility as a complete win-win from west Hattiesburg all the way to downtown Hattiesburg,” Jackson said. “Not only will this establish a brand-new, state-of-the-art mortgage processing center in west Hattiesburg and Lamar County, but it will also free up (those) beautiful buildings in downtown for redevelopment opportunities that can further expand downtown Hattiesburg.
“So this project is something that we really do view as valuable for each part of the community. And the addition of 400 jobs in general is valuable any time and anywhere that happens, but this one is pretty unique because it provides multiple different benefits in multiple ways.”
Hattiesburg City Council President Carter Carroll said the Regions project is huge for Hattiesburg, especially because the Hub City was chosen for the project over Pensacola, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; and Nashville, Tennessee.
“The thing is, they were going to move the mortgage center from downtown, and it was either going to stay in Hattiesburg or (move to one of those cities),” he said. “They elected to stay in Hattiesburg, so that means all those employees working there kept their jobs.
“Plus, they’re going to add the 90 jobs when it’s complete. So it’s going to be a big plus for Hattiesburg and for that area of Lamar County. I think some businesses will certainly go there, and that will help maybe help some restaurants go there to feed that mass of people.”