School built in the '20s gets new life in Bay St. Louis

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The old Hurricane Katrina damaged Second Street Elementary School in Bay St. Louis is under new ownership. A New Orleans developer recently bought the building and plans to give the historic landmark new life.

Exactly what the building will become remains a mystery. The new owner is seeking ideas, but many in town are just happy to see the building still standing.

"I would hate for this building to be torn down. This was one of the reasons we decided to move into old town was this beautiful, old building," said Carol LeFlore.

"Don't tear the building down; leave the structure as it is," said Lisette Greer.

Developer Jim MacPhaille said, for the most part, that's exactly what will happen to the 57,000 square foot structure, built in the 1920s.

"We have a 40,000 square foot school we bought in New Orleans in the RSD. We gutted it and renovated it. We did a mixed use project. We have 13 condos and then we did two houses," said MacPhaille. "So we're familiar with old buildings; we've been doing it for 25 years."

He said whether a similar concept, or even a luxury hotel could work here remains to be seen.

"It's a process you've got to go through. You've got to meet with the neighbors, meet with the city and come up with a plan that works for everybody," explained MacPhaille.

That's why he wants to hear from the buildings' neighbors about what they'd like to see it become.

"I would like to see it turned into a youth center for all the community where you could not only have children in there, but you can give the adults a place to go with their children. Where you could have exercise classes, as well as other adult family events," said Lisette Greer.

"I live directly across the street and I have four boys, so I'd like to see it become a fine arts center where the kids can take theater classes, dance classes and music classes," said Carol LeFlore.

Ann Holland doesn't live in Bay St. Louis, but considers it her second home. The Louisiana visitor has an opinion, too.

"I think a museum, an art gallery, shops, something along that line, even a children's museum."

"The building, it's big enough to house a restaurant, a Smoothie King, a coffee shop. A theater that would be like the one in New Orleans. You could use the gym for weddings or functions," said MacPhaille.

He said the possibilities are endless, and he's open to all ideas. The developer said he'll look for options until the first of the year and isn't planning to make any concrete decisions about the building's future until after that.

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