LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - City leaders stood alongside project contractors and developers outside the former Triton building at the Southern Miss Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach on Monday morning for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Soon, the building will be a place for more than 120 students to call home.
Friendship Oak Village is a private venture through the Kentucky-based company Encompass to provide the first student housing offered to USM Gulf Park students.
"We took a look at the building, physically walked out of the building one day, and looked across the railroad tracks and saw the campus. And that's what initiated the initial thought that perhaps this could be something for the community as it relates to the student housing," said building owner Jim Parrish.
It's a humble start to what city leaders call a major development.
"We're about to have students living here in dormitories, that'll be shopping in our shops, eating in our restaurants, and visiting our towns," said Long Beach Mayor, George Bass.
The hope is that this housing will draw in out-of-state students to the campus. Bass said talk is already underway to build more in the area, bringing to life his vision of a college town.
"Certainly with 122 students sitting here, you might see a little sit-down pizza restaurant real close, or something like that, that may develop out of this," he said.
"It's kind of creating a solid place for the students here, and there's the hope too, that it'll instigate some of the commerce and the retail that goes with students," said Leah Watters, architect for the project.
The housing complex will feature amenities like a basketball court, a pool, and several lounges. The biggest convenience is it's just a 5 to 10-minute walk from campus.
"If I was 18 again and going to college, this is where I'd want to be," said Bass.
Encompass Housing will begin accepting applications in May. Construction is expected to be complete in time for classes in September.