A Madison developer has big plans for one of downtown Hattiesburg’s most prominent landmarks.
Steve Nail, owner of INTERVEST Corp., is working out the details to convert the old Hattiesburg High School building on Main Street — which has been vacant since 2001 — into an age-restricted apartment development tentatively named Preservation Crossing.
"Downtown Hattiesburg has been coming back," Nail said. "You’ve got a real good downtown and historic group that tries to keep the integrity of downtown. For elderly residents, it’s close to (Forrest General) Hospital, it’s close to doctor’s offices. And the environment there, it’s a neighborhood environment, so they’ll feel at home."
The new facility, which is aimed at residents 62 years of age and older, is expected to be 575-800 square feet per unit, and will offer 70-75 apartments. The majority of the units will be one-bedroom — although a small handful of two-bedroom units may be available — and will feature a full kitchen, full bath and an on-site manager. Nail, who has developed a similar project at a former school in Pascagoula, said one of his biggest goals with the upcoming apartments is to make them affordable for potential residents.
"It’s not one of these upper-end kind of places — like in Jackson, we’ve got a property called The Blake, and those generally start at about $3,500 (a month)," he said. "Now, that’s assisted living, and they provide meals and other things.
"(At the new apartments), we’re going to provide some services, but we’re really going to try to start those out somewhere around $600. They’ll be very nice, and we’ll try to provide some services like we do down in Pascagoula — entertainment programs on a semi-weekly basis. A lot of our tenants become very close because we provide a very good environment."
If everything goes according to plan, work on the apartments could begin late next year at a cost of about $10 million.
"So the Mississippi Home Corporation administers tax credit programs and other programs, but it’s the housing credit program we’re after," Nail said. "With that, we’ll be able to build something very nice, because we’ll sell those credits to investors, and that’s where a lot of the construction money will come from.
"I’ll make application for that in March, and we’ll find out in June or July. With the building being historic, we’ll have to start drawing plans for final working drawings that will be submitted to the National Park Service for approval for credits. So that’s a lengthy process."
Construction on the original multiple-story building, located at 846 N. Main St., began in 1911. The facility was used a school until 1959, after which it served as headquarters for the Hattiesburg Public School District, and was home to an antiques mall until 2001. The building was heavily damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and again in 2007 by arsonists.
The facility was named a Mississippi Landmark in 1986 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Nail said the historic aspect of the building will continue, as he plans to keep the frame intact and build around it.
"I’ve also got to go in and apply for historic credits — the (Mississippi Department of Archives and History) require that we make that building look like it did when it was first built," he said. "So the outside will pretty much be what you see now, but enhanced, and of course we’ll put windows and everything in. We’ll actually use those (historic credits) for the building."
Nail said the development in Pascagoula has been a huge hit with its residents, and downtown officials such as Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association executive director Andrea Saffle are confident the downtown apartments will be received just as well.
"It would be fantastic just to have something in that building," she said. "Right now it’s just a shell, but it’s such a great, historic building. To have it back viable and useful again would be great, and it would help to solidify that corner of downtown."