By JACK WEATHERLY
By the time this is published, all 31 apartments in the Capitol Art Lofts may well have been taken.
The first unit was leased in November, and most of the rest have gone since then.
As of Tuesday only two were available.
The lofts attracted more than 300 inquiries and 100-plus actual applications, according to Nicole Lockhart, general manager for HRI Properties in downtown Jackson, which also include the Hotel King Edward apartments and the Standard Life Building Flats.
The Capitol Art Lofts, which were funded in part by federal tax credits (as were the King Edward and Standard Life), give preference to military veterans, the disabled, artists and those in the medical field.
First announced in 2013, the Capitol Art Lofts struggled with financing because of the unavailability of Mississippi Historic Tax Credits. Eventually, the Legislature raised the cap on the credits, providing HRI Properties of New Orleans with $2 million. Also, Mississippi Home Corp. increased its Low Income Housing Tax Credit, originally $6.66 million, by an additional $741,000 to allow the $10.4 million project to proceed.
The sleek Capitol Arts Lofts hold their own in style, and hold down the rent.
Twenty-six of the lofts were set aside for those whose income is no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. They cost $642 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $766 for a two-bedroom.
The other five are for those whose income is no more than 30 percent of the area median income. Four of them are one-bedroom units and cost $292. The two-bedroom unit costs $346. Tenants sign a one-year lease.
Across the street, the King Edward includes the 186-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel. The top four floors house 56 upscale apartments that start at about $1,000. The Standard Life Flats at 127 S. Roach St. also start at about $1,000.
The Capitol Art Lofts residents include two in the medical field, five who are disabled and four veterans, according to Marlita Pollard, assistant property manager. Two former homeless people are among the tenants, she said. The artistic trend runs through the new residents.
Those who were interviewed for this article gave their new residences high marks.
“I love it,” Charles King says of his one-bedroom, street-level apartment. I’ve met some of the other artists. The atmosphere is great.”
To the person, they all noted how quiet the apartments are, even with traffic, both motorized and pedestrian, as well as trains.
The central gallery is the hub of the apartments. Off it is the workout room with the latest in fitness equipment. A business room will soon be in operation.
King, 68, who is an artist, ran his Smarty Pants educational services program in the Jackson Public Schools. The motto of the program is “If a child can’t learn the way I teach, then I must ‘learn’ to teach the way he can learn.”
Born in Memphis, King worked for years with Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Mich., where in down time he started doodling and discovered his talent for art. He moved to Mississippi in 1982 to take care of his grandparents, as he continued to produce art, work for the Mississippi Museum of Art for 16 years, and started and ran his nonprofit, Smarty Pants.
Plas Lindsey is disabled. He lost the sight in one of his eyes, he said, thus ending his career with KLLM Truck Services.
Lindsey, who moved in Dec. 28, said, “It’s a nice, affordable place to live.”
The urban setting reminds him of New York City and Chicago.
“I think I’m going to love it,” he said.
Jeremyka Williams, 25, served in the U.S. Army for two years and has been in sales for T-Mobile for about six months, he said.
With artistic skills – he dances, plays piano and writes poetry – the Canton High School graduate who attended Mississippi College is weighing his life options.
“For downtown Jackson, this is great,” he said of the lofts. He and the rest of the tenants have a paved, fenced and secured parking lot behind the apartments.
That’s where he parks the first car he’s ever owned.
On the other end of the age scale is William Easley, 76, an Army retiree, who served in the 82nd and 101st Airborne visions in Vietnam. He was an over-the-road truck driver for 25 years.
Services and entertainment for those who live downtown are beginning to return.
The Downtown Snack Shop, which opened in 2015 AT 205 W. Capitol, has seen an uptick in business since the lofts opened, said owner Lyquita Smith.
The shop is a combination convenience store and short-order eatery, offering a variety of hot sandwiches, chicken and fish.
Smith has engaged Waitr, the delivery service, which she said has been very successful.
She noted that several other businesses opened on West Capitol in the past year – Cowboys Lounge, the 114 Lounge and Sugar Ray’s candy shop.
Sugar Ray’s opened last Valentine’s Day. A call to Cowboys Lounge was not returned.
The 114 Lounge opened Dec. 1. Located on the second floor above Fashion Corner, the lounge and restaurant offers a cityscape view of Capitol between Farish Street and Mill Street.
Manager Marvin Toney said the 114 Lounge has had to battle the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, plus bad weather and loss of water service due to broken mains.
The lounge serves home-style plate lunches for $10 Tuesday through Friday. (One visitor tried it and was raving about it.)
Another enticement is happy hour from 6 p.m. till 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday with an array of drinks ranging from $5 to $7. Dinner is offered Friday and Saturday evenings.
Toney said the lounge will begin a blues night on Sundays starting Feb. 11.
HRI Properties of New Orleans carved the loft-style apartments out of seven buildings dating from 1885 and 1929 are what the name suggests – people with a creative bent.
HRI partnered with local developer David Watkins on the renovation of the Hotel King Edward and the Standard Life building to lead the resurrection of the west end of Capitol where it intersects with Mill Street.
The buildings that now comprise Capitol Art Lofts had long been an eyesore, said Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, a business improvement district.
As much as anything, HRI was motivated to protect its $125 million investment in the King Edward and Standard Life, Allen said, just as Kip Gibert did by buying six vacant buildings across East Capitol from the Heritage Building, which he bought a year earlier and is renovating.
“We’ve really are seeing the corner being turned,” Allen said, adding that some big things were in the offing for the middle of the east-west corridor.
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