Florida businessman purchases properties near city’s riverfront|[01/20/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 20, 2007

A real estate company owned by Larry Hellring of south Florida has bought at least three pieces of property near Vicksburg’s riverfront.

Documentation of the sales was recorded in the Warren County Chancery Clerk’s Office between Dec. 29 and Tuesday.

The properties are Nick’s Auto Parts, 1733 Washington St., and vacant lots at 1100 Walnut St. and on the western side of Washington Street across from Green Street.

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Reached by phone this week, Hellring said he did not have specific plans for the properties yet but that he considers Vicksburg &#8220a hidden gem” and praised planned residential development that has been proposed for in or near downtown.

Hellring is president of Superior Window Corporation of Hialeah Gardens, and said a trip to Mississippi during the summer of 2006 with plans to visit Vicksburg National Military Park led to his decision to begin investing here. Two initial connections were former Mississippi Gov. William Winter and Jackson businessman and former Mississippi Development Authority director Leland Speed, who recently became director of the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, Hellring said.

&#8220I had known Gov. Winter for close to 20 years and was in Jackson this summer and met with Gov. Winter,” Hellring said by phone this week. &#8220He happened to introduce me to Leland Speed a couple of days before I actually visited Vicksburg.”

Through Winter, a &#8220hello meeting” was arranged with Mayor Laurence Leyens and it was that meeting that interested Hellring further in the potential of the city’s economy, Hellring said.

&#8220We ended up getting into a longer conversation,” Hellring said, adding that he was given a tour of the city and the park. &#8220I suddenly felt something very special about the city.”

Hellring said subsequent visits with Vicksburg residents helped confirm his initial impression. One of those residents was Bob Morrison III, one of five investors in two planned housing developments, including five separate three-story townhouses that are to be built on land that is now vacant along Washington Street, between Jackson and Grove streets.

One of the properties purchased by Hellring’s real-estate venture, the vacant lot at 1100 Walnut St., is just east of the townhouses planned by the Morrison group, which also includes Harley Caldwell, Morrison’s brother Cooper, Johnny Sanders and John Wheeless. It was purchased from S.J. &#8220Skippy” Tuminello of Vicksburg, records show.

Nick’s Auto Parts was bought from the store’s owner, Gerald W. Kelly. He said one condition of the sale was that his business be allowed to remain in the space for at least two years and that he planned to keep the store open during that time.

Morrison said Friday that, pending city approval, work on the townhouses is to begin no later than this spring. The development group bought the land from the city in August on the condition that they invest at least $700,000 in it within two years.

The project was announced as the first phase of a potentially multiple-phase development, depending on demand for the units.

Other projects are also in the works for downtown.

Redevelopment of the Aeolian Apartments at Clay and Cherry streets, 82 years old and vacant since 1991, is to begin in April, Leyens said Friday. The building was bought in August by a California-based development group headed by architect Mike Burgess. The plan announced then was to convert the building into about 80 upscale apartments by the end of 2007.

Renovation by Robert Ware of 1412 and 1414 Washington St. into a hotel to be named The Ware House, with seven suites and 10 vacation units, is also planned.

A potential deal that would result in redevelopment of the former Valley Dry Goods building, on Washington Street about three blocks southwest of the Aeolian, into condominiums has also been mentioned.

The Morrison group’s other planned development is a traditional neighborhood of about 200 lots on 57 acres near Mississippi 27 and Lee Road. The development is east of Vicksburg and is to be called Eastvillage.