KEEPING OPTIONS OPENCarr owners still hoping for housing

Published 11:15 am Monday, January 23, 2012

Thirty-three years after it was last used as a school, the former Carr Central building sits, empty except for vagrants and vandals, amid hopes it still will be saved.

“We’re interviewing prospective developers and checking their backgrounds,” said David Brewer, the agent in charge of the estate of his late father, who had owned the Cherry Street building since 2007. “We’re keeping our options open. We haven’t reached a decision on anyone yet.”

The hope is to transform the 88-year-old building into affordable housing.

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The building was gutted soon after its purchase by Webber Brewer — its doors and windows removed, opening the building’s interior to the elements.

Several walls on the building’s second and third floors are covered with graffiti, and debris and leaves from nearby trees litter the floors. Sections of the roof are missing.

A plan to develop Carr Central into a 62-unit complex for seniors using affordable housing tax credits was presented in April by a group called Rose of Vicksburg and rejected by the Mississippi Housing Corporation because it didn’t meet the program’s threshold requirements. The MHC is a self-supporting quasi-public agency that oversees federal housing grants in the state.

The MHC is the same agency that in September approved a 60-unit senior housing development project for the Aeolian at Cherry and Clay streets proposed by the Houston-based development firm Brownstone.

David Brewer said he is reviewing proposals to develop Carr Central into either a moderate income, multi-family complex or elderly apartments using affordable housing tax credits to help develop the property.

Developing the building, which closed in 1979, into some type of housing complex has been an ongoing project since 1999, when Robert Rosenthal bought the building from the city for $105,000 with plans to convert it into an assisted living facility. The project didn’t materialize because Rosenthal was not able to get state grants to clean the building and ran into problems with asbestos.

Brewer bought the building from Rosenthal in May 2007, with plans to develop it into an upscale apartment or condominium development called “The Carr.”

In 2009, The Landmark Group, a North Carolina development company, proposed turning the school into a 58-unit, $8.6 million senior apartment complex, but that plan fell through.

Wes Holsapple, a Madison real estate broker who represented Rose of Vicksburg at the MHC public hearing on Carr in April in Vicksburg, said he was working with an unnamed development team which is developing a proposal for Carr Central. He would not discuss details about the new group or its plans, adding that they were in the process of solving some issues to get their package ready.

Housing tax credits are administered annually by MHC and fund residential developments where tenants pay rent on a sliding scale, based on a county’s area median income. The program provides credits or reductions in tax liability each year for 10 years for owners and investors in affordable-income rental housing, based on the costs of development and the number of qualified affordable-income units.

Under the tax credit program people eligible to live in a complex built and financed with affordable housing tax credits must earn less than 60 percent of the area median income. In Warren County, that comes to about $30,855, using the most recent income-related census data.

Built in 1924 and named for John P. Carr, the superintendent of Vicksburg schools at the time, Carr Central held kindergarten, elementary and junior high school classes and the administrative offices for Carr and the school district staff. It served as Carr Central High School from 1932 to 1958, when it was replaced by H.V. Cooper High School. It was a junior high school from 1958 until it closed in 1979.

In October 2008, the property was the site of a reunion of the school’s alumni, who were given the opportunity to tour the building.