Three developers tap into history in three different ways
In Starkville, there is a set of hackberry trees just off South Montgomery Road.
Developer Saunders Ramsey remembers opening the gate to his grandparent’s dairy farm when he was a little boy just under the same trees which now greet homeowners to the Adelaide traditional neighborhood.
In 2013, Ramsey started a development company, Live Adelaide, in an effort to preserve the best moments of the childhood he spent on his family’s 500-acre property. He recalls spending his summers camping, hanging out with friends and catching catfish. He wanted to create a neighborhood around those childhood moments. He wanted to create a neighborhood that takes people back in time, where nature and people were the center.
“It’s where new meets the old,” Ramsey said. “We are going way back to before conventional subdivisions. We’re using the ability to influence behavior through design.”
The Adelaide neighborhood, which is named after Ramsey’s grandmother, sells individual lots and allows families to build their houses from the ground up. Ramsey said the homes follow three different styles: Creole, Acadian and French colonial, adding a Louisiana flair to Starkville. Those style houses were chosen, Ramsey said, because they have stood the test of time. He hopes to have a timeless neighborhood built to preserve his grandmother’s footprint and impact in Starkville.
“My grandmother, she’s very special to our family,” Ramsey said. “The way she treated people, that’s how we are trying to treat this property. We wanted her name to be carefully preserved and that story is something special to have.”
Phase one was completed in 2017, with 18 lots and phase two is under way with 33 lots, 12 of which have already been purchased.
The idea, Ramsey said, is to create a neighborhood where people sit on their front porches, gather together and socialize while walking their dogs or playing with children. With the garages in the rear of the houses, and large front porches facing the roads, Ramsey said it encourages that social lifestyle he remembers when he was younger.
The grand plan for Adelaide extends beyond just that though. Ramsey envisions having markets, convenience stores and community gardens within walking distance of each house. And even though he’s developing the property, Ramsey is trying to bolster the landscape of that same farm he remembered as a child.
“When you preserved the characteristics, they’re still with us,” Ramsey said. “You’ve preserved the spiritual side. We’re creating that sense of place here.”
New life in old apartments
Ramsey is revisiting an older type of a lifestyle, a more sociable one. In Columbus, Guy Mackey, co-owner of The Granite Guys, has given a new heartbeat to two older apartment complexes. Mackey purchased College Manor, at the corner of 11th and College Street, and Park Manor, in Lee Park, more than three years ago. Since then, he started revitalizing and finishing the apartments, which were originally built in the early 1970s.
“Nothing had been done to them in 30 or 40 years,” Mackey said. “We didn’t anticipate going to the extent that we did, but it made sense to focus on getting it done right. And that’s a great thing for the community.”
Now, the apartments sit nearly unrecognizable from their former selves, with complete renovations inside and out. Mackey repainted the outside, added new roofs, completed bathroom and kitchen renovations and added stainless steel appliances.
“It just really dated back to the 70s,” Mackey said. “We gave it a nice facelift though.”
If the right project comes along, Mackey said he might look to restore more dated apartments.
Elsewhere in Columbus, developer Scott Berry continues with his project of breathing new life into the former Lee High School building on Military Road. Phase one of that project includes transforming classrooms into loft apartments. Clean up and restoration began just after Berry purchased the property in June. Like Mackey, who saw an investment opportunity and a way to revitalize a “sore sport,” Berry saw the same opportunity each time he drove past the vacant school.
“I saw what was going on there, people breaking in and I just hated it,” Berry said. “I passed by it daily. One day we decided to pull the trigger. We felt like it was a valuable economic adventure.”
Berry said the Lofts at Lee will have 16 two-bedroom apartments and seven one-bedroom apartments ranging from 750-1,300 square feet. If all goes as planned, the Lofts will open by this fall. While trying to preserve the historic high school, Berry said he has decided to leave the classroom hallways just as they were when the school was in session. With lockers lining the hallways, the original classroom doors as entries into the lofts and even the original intercom hanging in the corner, Berry said he hopes it brings people back.
“If you’re familiar with the school, once you get into the old apartments, there’s no doubt you’ll know where you are,” Berry said.
Story by Mary Pollitz
Adelaide Photos by Osvaldo Ballesteros Garcia
All other Photos by Chris Jenkins