By LISA MONTI
It took developer Chet LeBlanc 11 years, but his nine-unit Front Street Inn condo development on North Beach Boulevard in historic Old Town Bay St. Louis is set to break ground this month.
“This will be first place where you can own property downtown and live their full-time if you choose to,” LeBlanc said.
The original project, which had six condos, was derailed, first by Hurricane Katrina and then by the recession. “We broke ground two weeks before Katrina hit and we couldn’t get back on the property for almost three years. Then the economy turned and we couldn’t get any financing,” he said.
Now, with financing in place, six condos sold, LeBlanc is aiming for construction to be completed by next summer.
The first floor of the building will be retail space and the condos will be on the top three floors. There are six two-bedroom units and three with one bedroom.
The one-bedroom units are priced at $300,000 and the two-bedroom units cost $400,000.
One buyer is local and the others are from Ohio, Hattiesburg and Lafayette, La.
The building facade will have a turn-of-the-century style with some Florida accents, he said. The condos feature ceramic tile bathrooms, granite countertops and custom kitchen cabinets. All the units have balconies facing the city’s harbor. Residents will have off-street parking, a prized option in the downtown area that is popular for its shops, galleries, restaurants and bars.
Restaurateur Thomas Genin, whose Blind Tiger restaurant and bar is across North Beach Boulevard from the condos, is leasing the first floor retail space to open two businesses.
One will be a raw bar serving mainly shellfish along with cocktails and wine that will open nightly. The other half will be a market selling convenience store items such as snacks, beer and sunscreen plus Blind Tiger apparel and a small assortment of boat supplies and tackle. It will open early to serve coffee and be “more of a gathering spot,” Genin said.
“I’m very confident that this project will be very successful,” he said of the condos and his two retail spots.
LeBlanc, who also developed Chapel Hill at Beach Boulevard and U.S. 90, said the new project will be an asset to the city that has seen substantial recovery but still has vacant beachfront property left in Katrina’s wake.
“I think it’s going to be a boon for the city because each condo is looked at as a residence and it’s going to increase the tax base,” LeBlanc said.
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