Imagine leaving work to head home and only having to walk up the stairs. In a few months, that will be the case for a Gulfport man. Realtor Cliff Thomas is renovating a building in historic downtown Gulfport to be both his office and his home. And he expects in the next few years, the concept will catch on with others.
Meridian. Columbus. Vicksburg. After helping those cities fit both homes and businesses into their downtowns, Renovations of Mississippi is trying to do the same for Gulfport.
Benji Livingston works for the company.
"We try to get the right mixture of retail, as well as living spaces, to where you have a 24 hour downtown."
Renovations of Mississippi owner Chris Chain, and realtor Cliff Thomas are partners in converting a historic 1920s building into offices.
"Our office space is going to be down here," said Thomas. "There are two offices that some lawyers have rented back in the back."
Upstairs will be two apartments, both two-bedroom, two-bath. One is for Chain, the other for Thomas who says building residential units to commercial standards is expensive and almost not cost effective.
"It's right on the border line," said Thomas. "It's pretty high because once you get the cost of the building plus the cost of renovations, you're up around $200 a foot. I don't know that the rents will really demand that right now."
Thomas says there is a need to get people living, working and shopping downtown. In mixed use, one can't thrive without the others.
"It's really hard to say you're going to develop a downtown and not have people living in it," he said. "If they've got business here. People aren't going to drive from Orange Grove to shop a business here. So you need to have your own nucleus of business here and I think one drives the other."
It may take takes years, but Thomas believes he'll end up with plenty of neighbors calling downtown "home."
Realtor Cliff Thomas says the cost of renovations puts rent for a 1,000 square foot apartment at about $1,200 a month. That's 20 percent higher than the current average. He thinks once that levels off, interest in mixed use will grow.