GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The historic Markham Building in downtown Gulfport has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina roared ashore in 2005. The storm inflicted considerable damage on the building.
Virginia based attorney Robert Lubin purchased the Markham back in July. Lubin says he plans to gut the building and convert it into upscale residential apartments with possible retail and office space on the first few floors.
Gulfport hopes the renovation will revitalize the downtown area. Financing, including historic tax credits from the state, are continuing to be put in place.
While everyone in Gulfport is watching and waiting to see what developer Robert Lubin does with the Markham Building, we do know he purchased the historic Eola Hotel in downtown Natchez. There was a petition going around asking Lubin to restore it and reopen it as a hotel. Lubin decided to go with senior apartments. People around Natchez say they have not seen any work going on here for at least the past eight months.
The grand old Eola Hotel has fallen into disrepair. Merchants downtown, who didn't want to go on camera are frustrated with a lack of activity at the site. Weeds have taken over the once lavish courtyard. Windows are covered with plywood.
Robert Lubin bought the Eola property in 2014. He expected to have completed the renovation by the end of 2016. Natchez officials are anxious to see this valuable asset become a vibrant part of the downtown area.
"We are eagerly awaiting progress on the Eola. That is one of the buildings downtown we do not want to see empty. There is a lot of history there. We don't want to lose that. We'd like to see things get rolling at the Eola," said Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell.
When asked if he's concerned about the lack of progress, Grennell said, "Yes, I am, but I'm optimistic."
Natchez is being patient with Lubin. Gulfport leaders are hopeful that delays similar to those plaguing the Eola project won't be repeated during the transformation of the Markham Building.
Lubin told WLOX News Now the restoration should begin in the first quarter of 2017. If there are no delays, the Markham should reopen in the fall of 2018.