By JACK WEATHERLY
Developer Andrew Mattiace will convert the historical Lamar Life Building in downtown Jackson into loft apartments and office and retail space.
The conversion of the 11-story building commenced last week and will be complete in November, Mattiace said in an interview.
Mattiace said he made a decision to put up a banner on the building announcing the plan so “60,000 people would have something to talk about” as they participated in Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day downtown parade and festival last weekend.
The project will be the latest in renaissance of downtown that began about a decade ago with the Hotel King Edward and apartments and the Standard Life Building Flats. The Capitol Art Lofts were opened at the end of 2017 and quickly filled up.
Those are on the west end of Capitol Street between the Amtrak train station and the Old Capitol Museum on the east end.
The Lamar Life Building at 317 E. Capitol was erected in 1925 and its gothic revival architecture is capped by a clock tower that makes it about 13 floors in height though only 11 are habitable, Mattiace said, adding that he believes the building is the first skyscaper in the South.
Famed Jackson writer Eudora Welty’s father, Christian Welty, contributed to the design of the building. The writer told an interviewer for The New York Times that, as children, she and her little brother would visit their father, who became president of the insurance company. That’s where she “fell in love” with his typewriter. The architect who designed the building also designed the house where Eudora grew up and lived most of her life, dying in 2001.
The loft apartments will average about 850 square feet and include one- and two-bedroom models, with some one-bedroom models with a study that can function as a “half” bedroom, he said.
They will be on floors seven through 11, he said. Office space will be on floors two through six and the street-level space will be retail. Mattiace was not prepared to reveal rental rates on Friday.
Parking will be in the Capitol Towers garage with a pedestrian walkway into the Lamar Building.
Mattiace has owned the building for about 20 years.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for the space in downtown,” along with the medical center area and Fondren, he said.
Ben Allen, president of the Jackson Downtown Partners, said that, of course, he had known about the project for sometime and, in fact, had showed the space to about 10 developers over the years.
This will be “the first of a few” major projects for downtown to be announced in the near future, Allen said.
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