In a project described by Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker as “an effort across generations,” officials broke ground Friday on Preservation Crossing, the venture that will transform the former Hattiesburg High School on Main Street into age-restricted apartments.
“There are certainly folks who contributed to this project and stayed faithful and consistent, even when it seemed like it might not happen,” Barker told the crowd of about 100 at the event. “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.”
The facility, which was acquired by Jackson-based Intervest Corporation early last year, will be constructed by Harris Construction Services for residents 55 years of age or older. The 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.
“I’m glad to be here to celebrate the redevelopment of the historic Hattiesburg High School building,” said Chad Newell, president of the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg. “Downtowns are revitalized one project at a time, one building at a time, but I can’t think of one in downtown that has more significance for our citizens than this building.
“Typically, what we see in the economic development world is that one success leads to another success. So you’ve got to have someone willing to come in and be that first, very significant project in an area, and we are very grateful for Intervest.”
Preservation Crossing, which will cost about $15.5 million, is expected to open late this year or early next year.
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.
“We are glad to invest in Preservation Crossing,” said Dana Mayo, Hunt Capital Partners’ Executive Managing Director, in an email. “Not only will this development preserve a key landmark in Hattiesburg, but it also expands affordable housing options for seniors in the region.”
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. “This project has been a long time in the making, and we’re so, so happy to finally get it underway.”