Penthouse Life Returns To Pass Christian's Waterfront - - The News for South Mississippi

Penthouse Life Returns To Pass Christian's Waterfront

PASS CHRISTIAN (WLOX) -- Pass Christian's tax base got another boost on Monday afternoon. The Penthouse Condominium Owners Association celebrated its return to the Katrina battered city.

Hurricane Camille knocked down the Penthouse Condominiums in 1969. Hurricane Katrina ripped through them 36 years later. Yet, the families who own units there are determined to rebuild their condominium complex.

One of those people is Dianne Baudoin. Her Penthouse view of the Mississippi Sound remains obscured by the harsh reality of Katrina. On Monday, she walked around the battered property, passing weeds and brick columns that littered the area.

"Mine was unit number 134, and it was located right to the left side of the pool," she said.

But like so much of Pass Christian's waterfront, her unit, and the entire Penthouse condominium complex disappeared as Katrina came ashore.

So on a windy afternoon in front of the Penthouse property, neighbors gathered to celebrate a milestone.

Fred Mikell looked at the crowd and said, "It's great to be back. Great to be back to Pass Christian."

Mikell hosted a groundbreaking that signaled the return of the Penthouse to the Pass Christian community.

Baudoin cheered as loud as anyone as when a ceremonial shovel went into the ground.

"Just looking forward to getting back, and being a part of the community again and enjoying each other's company. We miss that," she said.

The new Penthouse condos will be a series of modular structures, with the first units opening in 12 months. The complex had 84 units before the storm. The new design reduces that number to 82. So far, 57 of the condos have tenants.

Becky Williams hopes to manage the facility, just like she has since 1998.

"This is my home. This is my family, and I miss them terribly," said Williams.

According to Pass Christian leaders, the Penthouse was one of at least 2,000 homes, apartments or condos that were either destroyed or considered unlivable after Katrina. Since that storm, the city has issued 1,800 rebuilding permits.

In fact, the Penthouse party is one of two Pass condo celebrations this week. To the mayor, both projects are proof that life in Pass Christian is back on track.

"Things are starting to happen. This is very significant," Mayor Chipper McDermott said.

Bettie Worthington claims to have lived at the Penthouse the longest. She watched the groundbreaking with a smile on her face, because her home was about to be rebuilt.

"It gives you a feeling that this is permanent. And that's what I want it to be again.  Permanent," she said.

The property next door to the Penthouse Condominiums is the Pass Christian Wal-Mart site. Tuesday night, the city's Board of Aldermen will vote on a zoning variance Wal-Mart requested to rebuild its store.

According to Mayor McDermott, the new Wal-Mart will be smaller than its predecessor. The old store was 220,000 square feet. The new design will be 150,000 square feet. Part of the reason it's smaller is it won't have an automotive service center. However, McDermott said he was told the Pass Christian Wal-Mart on Highway 90 will have an oyster bar.

By Brad Kessie

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