Downtown digs will be apartments, retail space|[12/01/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 1, 2007

Work is underway to convert the Valley Building, a former department store at Washington and South streets, to apartments and retail space.

Kevin Agahnia, a principle in the company that bought the building in June, said the specifics are being worked out, but work will begin soon to build high-end apartments on the third, fourth and fifth floors. Plans also include opening retail space on the floor of the Washington Street entrance, Agahnia said.

“It’s going to be residential on the top, and downstairs will be some type of a retail space. We haven’t gotten into details about it yet,” he said.

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K.A. Enterprises, a San Diego-based real estate company, bought the building in June from the family of Mayor Laurence Leyens. Both parties declined to comment on the price. Leyens has been acting as a consultant on the project, though Agahnia said he has no financial stake in the building.

The building was the site of the popular Valley Department Store, which operated there for a little more than a century, from 1881 until 1983.

Crews have been making repairs to the exterior of the building, replacing windows and touching up the masonry on the outside balcony over Washington Street.

Daryl Hollingsworth, a Vicksburg Realtor who is overseeing work to the building’s exterior, said architectural drawings are expected to be ready by Jan. 15.

Work inside the building has been limited to the electrical system, he said.

No timetable has been set for completion, and Agahnia said cost estimates and the number of apartments to be created are details that are being worked out.

Agahnia said his company’s interest in Vicksburg was sparked while representatives were touring the region in search of real estate investments.

“Most of our investments are in the San Diego area,” he said. “But with real estate being what it is in California, we are looking elsewhere.”

Agahnia, who had traveled to Vicksburg as a tourist about 15 years ago, said he was impressed with improvements to the city’s downtown area.