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Aeolian work expected to resume in February

The 76-year-old Aeolian Apartments, fenced off for construction, is at Cherry and Clay streets. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[01/23/01] Restoration of the long-vacant Aeolian Apartments is expected to resume next month when workers finish replacing broken windows in the downtown building.

Work on the 76-year-old building once under a city demolition order began in late 1999, but came to a halt in April. Little has been done since.

Hopes had been high when Renovations of Mississippi Inc., a Columbus company, purchased the property a year and a half ago and said it would reopen this summer.

“We’re not working on it right now, but we are hopefully getting ready to,” said Chris Chain, president of RMI.

Although Chain did not give specific reasons for the nearly year-long delay in work, he said changes have been made to the original plans for the building.

Mayor Robert Walker said the city should continue to be patient with RMI and give the company more time to complete the work.

“I do hope that they get what they need,” Walker said. “I would like to see the project go on.”

Original plans by RMI were to convert the building into one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Chain would not discuss the alternate plans, but said there are some “multi-use” options being considered.

“We’re getting ready to present plans for the building and hopefully start sometime next month,” he said.

Chain said that workers should again be on the site cleaning up the outside, replacing broken glass and painting window frames. Work replacing the 1,046 windows in the building and cleaning out debris from inside began in December 1999, but stopped a month later.

Last month, at least one worker cut and cleaned the lot around the building along the chain-link fence that surrounds the construction site.

“We had had such a tough time with the previous owners that we were so happy to have someone so reputable” own the building, Walker said.

For years, the future of the the clay-brick building on Clay and Cherry streets had been a thorn in city officials’ side as they fought with the previous owners, MCJ Inc. The purchase of the Aeolian by RMI literally snatched the building from the grasp of the wrecking ball.

After the purchase, Vicksburg’s Board of Adjustments and Appeals, which hears building and code issues, granted a 60-day extension on the demolition order. The city had contracted four months earlier with Riverside Construction to tear down the decaying structure.

“I would like to see some target date given for completion,” Walker said.

Built in 1924 and advertised as the city’s first fire-proof apartments, the building contributed to the placement of downtown Vicksburg on the National Register of Historic Districts. The renovation is being helped with building facade grants, low interest pool loans and tax deferments.

The Aeolian’s 74 apartments have been vacant since 1991.

“It would make use of a facility that is badly needed for housing,” Walker said.

Renovations of Mississippi Inc. is responsible for similar rehabilitation projects in Columbus and Meridian.