City closes alley in advance of Regions project

By HASKEL BURNS,

In preparation of the upcoming Regions Bank project that will relocate 320 employees from two of the bank’s downtown locations to a new mortgage operations facility in west Hattiesburg, members of Hattiesburg City Council have approved the closure of the alley behind the Regions parking garage on West Front Street.

Rob Tatum, the local developer who has purchased the two buildings that will be vacated, said the process will clear up a title issue to make way for the beginning of the project.

“We’re not really doing anything except trying to clean up the title,” said Tatum, who also developed the Hub City Lofts, The District at Midtown and The Claiborne at Hattiesburg. “The alley that was vacated wasn’t completely vacated, and we’re just trying to make sure we clean up the title first.”

The alley, which is located on the property of 130 West Front St., is bordered by North Railroad Street to the south, Main Street to the Northeast and Forrest Street to the southwest.

“It’s not being used, and (Tatum) needs to build a structure there,” City Council President Carter Carroll said. “It was an unused alley – it was plotted as an alley, but it’s not. So we do this kind of thing all the time.”

The new Regions Bank mortgage operations facility, which is being constructed at the intersection of Lincoln Road and Lamar Boulevard, is expected to open some time in the first quarter of next year, at which point the Regions employees currently located in the Forrest Tower and Kress buildings will move to the new site. Tatum’s initial plans for the two buildings are to transform them into mixed-used facilities, with mainly studio and one-bedroom apartments along with commercial/retail space.

“We’re not any further along then we were before, really,” Tatum said. “It’s just one of the steps we have to take – we knew we were going to have to do it when we bought the buildings.

“We’ve just been dealing with the railroad, and it’s just taking a little while to get done.”

Regions Bank will continue to provide a full-service location downtown, and the new mortgage operations facility is expected to create 90 new jobs at the 60,000-square-foot location.

“Our strategy to move and build a new operation, a big piece of that was that we weren’t going to leave empty buildings downtown,” Greg Garraway, South Mississippi president for Regions Bank, said in a previous story. “So the only thing that will be moving will be the mortgage operation.

“You’re going to see fresh capital deployed in downtown Hattiesburg with what (Tatum) plans to do with those buildings. Everything there is positive for downtown as well.”