BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - More and more cities on the Gulf Coast are encouraging developers to convert downtown buildings into homes or condos. The emphasis is on bringing people back to downtown areas and, at the same time, seeing more businesses open.
Signs of that kind of activity are being seen in Bay St. Louis. The old Bay St. Louis train depot serves as the centerpiece for what is known as the Depot District. Across the street on Blaize Avenue is a row of structures that have been restaurants, bars and retail spaces. They have fallen into disrepair and have been abandoned in recent years, but a new beginning is in the air.
Nate and Mandy Smith teamed up with their friend Mark Kellar to transform one of the buildings into two residences.
The first thing they did is hire John Anderson of Unabridged Architecture, who relished the opportunity to be part of designing modern living.
“These buildings have been sitting here vacant for a long time. I was very excited to see someone who felt they could put them to use in a very cool way,” Anderson said.
Nate and Mandy saw potential, purchased the building and got to work on converting the building into a home on the second floor.
“We really love the area, and hated that there was not a lot happening on this strip. I stumbled across this space and it was perfect, everything we needed,” Nate said.
The result was a place with a contemporary flair and an urban flavor using 1,000 square feet of space.
Kellar did the same thing on the ground level. His family will stay there, but he plans to take advantage of zoning changes and put the unit on the short-term rental market. An open house was held recently, and there appears to be interest in more development in this area.
“We’re bringing it back to life and watching the foot traffic pick up. We have a neighbor who is basically doing the same thing. There is all kinds of action on the buildings next to us,” Kellar said.
Of course, this lifestyle is popular in larger cities. Standing on the balcony feels like being in New Orleans or some other metropolitan market.
A project like this serves as a model for mixed-use development with an emphasis of residences, something that is gaining traction in many of Coastal Mississippi’s downtown areas.
“Hopefully we’re the start of it. Maybe some more folks will come behind us,” Nate Smith said.