From blight to right: Eyesore turned into new Oak Grove apartments

Blighting factors can include cracked foundations, exposed wiring, deteriorating infrastructure and much more. Wochit

It was the dead of summer and Reba Brown was looking for a place to live. Suddenly, something refreshing caught her by surprise.

She passed by Oak Grove Place Apartments on Oak Grove Road and the look and smell of fresh paint drew her in.

"Are you renting yet?" she asked the lady standing outside.

"Yes, beginning the first of August," the lady said.

Brown liked what she saw.

"I said this is for me."

Decay to decor

The apartment complex is a far cry from its previous state when it was known as Greentree Apartments and then Corinthian Court.

Weeds, empty shopping carts, abandoned furniture and broken fencing dotted the landscape then. The apartments were in terrible shape with balcony railings missing, broken windows, termite damage, busted doors, missing air conditioning units and water leaks.

The former site of what is now Oak Grove Place Apartments in 2017. The apartments have been demolished and renovated since then.

"We did have a lot of problems there," said Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel. "When they started falling in disrepair and abandoned, we were having homeless people and people coming off the interstate.

"They’ve done a remarkable job turning it around."

Oak Grove Place is holding an open house Wednesday to show off the new apartments. There will be refreshments, entertainment and tours.

A company affiliated with Kleban Properties of Fairfield, Connecticut, and Delaney Property Group of Mobile, Alabama, renovated the complex as part of a project to upgrade the nearby Westwood Square Shopping Center on Hardy Street. It sits just behind the center.

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"Their desire is to make the entire community better," said Ellen Maxime, chief operations officer for Adcock Properties, which manages Oak Grove Place. "They saw a need to protect their interest in the shopping center.

"The community was bringing down property values in the whole area."

Nearby shopping center a factor

Ken Kleban, president of Kleban Properties, said vagrants at Corinthian Court had been bothering retailers at Westwood. Around July, he put in a new restaurant at the shopping center — a sports bar called Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar and refreshed the center by repainting the awnings, replacing signage, putting in new lighting and redoing sidewalks.

He knew he couldn’t put all that work into the shopping center and leave the apartments as they were.

The apartments were purchased in November 2017. At the time, only 20 residents were legally occupying about 132 units. They were all vacated by mid-January 2018. Every unit was demolished and the first building was reconstructed by July.

Three buildings still need to be remodeled, but the property is now 65% occupied.

Brown picked out a one-bedroom for herself with exposed brick walls.

"They were so nice," she said. "They were just my size."

Rent starts at $570 for a one-bedroom, $690 for a two-bedroom.

The amenities include a club room, fitness center, business center, grilling area, pet park, on-site laundry, central heat and air, fully equipped kitchen with custom cabinetry and the property is gated.

"Everything is new," Maxime said. "New flooring, nice carpeting, plenty of storage."

But, perhaps, best of all, Rigel said the sheriff’s department only has been out to the property for routine calls — missing dogs or other assistance.

"It’s safe," Maxime said. "The property is well-lit. It’s very inviting.

"It’s just a really good community."

New tenants, new atmosphere

The apartments have a mix of residents, Maxime said.

"It’s a quiet, family community with good, hard-working people," she said. "We have students, professionals, people from the hospital — a wide variety."

She said the complex is centrally located.

"It’s right at (Interstate) 59 — convenient to shopping and dining," Maxime said. "There’s a Winn-Dixie in the shopping center.

"It’s less than 10 minutes to Southern Miss. It’s convenient to get on and off Hardy Street, to Turtle Creek Mall and (Mississippi) 589."

Maxime hopes to have Oak Grove Place 100% occupied by fall.

"We want to cater to the community with a safe and reasonably-priced place to live," she said.

As for Brown, her lease is up in August, but she’s not going anywhere.

"I have no thoughts of moving at all," she said.

If you go

What: Grand Opening of Oak Grove Place

When: 3:30-5:30 p.m., Wednesday

Where: 2000 Oak Grove Road, Office and Club Room

Available: Refreshments, entertainment, tours

More: ‘Beautiful, old house.’ The history of the Queen Anne home, a staple in downtown Hattiesburg

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