New Orleans developers Jim and Catherine MacPhaille are banking on the Bay, where they have bought several properties and have the historic A&G Theatre under contract on North Beach Boulevard.
“The market, to me, is getting stronger and stronger in Bay St. Louis,” said Jim MacPhaille, whose company, Coastal Land Development, also is heavily invested in New Orleans projects. “A lot of people in New Orleans are determining they want to get back to the Bay, Waveland and Pass Christian. There's a lot of activity over there and I think it's a great opportunity to buy.”
MacPhaille said he is working with real estate Broker Regan Kane of John McDonald Realty on plans for the A&G, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. MacPhaille, who also bought a lot northwest of the theater, said he will either develop the property himself, or lease it.
There have been discussions about an entertainment venue, a miniature version of Tipatina’s in New Orleans, where live music is featured; or mixed-use development for live theater, movies and event rentals. MacPhaille said he is not planning condominiums, as some have speculated. Historic tax credits, he said, will be part of any development plans.
The Spanish Colonial Revival building was designed by architect William T. Nolan and erected in 1927.
Real estate agent Margaret Hayden bought the defunct theater in the mid-1970s because she could not bear the thought it would be torn down, said her son, Lee Hayden of Bay St. Louis.
“It was always on the market, more or less,” Hayden said. “We rented it out to different people, but we never used it ourselves.” One tenant even opened a snow ball stand in the old building.
Hurricane Katrina flooded the interior, with debris washed in from businesses across the street on the waterfront. After the storm, the Haydens restored the exterior, and stabilized and re-roofed the theater.
The MacPhailles started investing in Bay St. Louis before the storm. When Hurricane Katrina scoured their old Cowand Plantation property on North Beach, they redeveloped it with nine homes, a swimming pool, pier and other amenities.
Six months ago, the MacPhailles bought the French settlement building on South Beach Boulevard next to Hancock Bank, home to Green Canyon Outfitters and Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill. A wine bar is set to open on the second floor.
The MacPhailles also recently bought a commercial lot on Second Street, just north of Main Street next to The Buttercup cafe.
MacPhaille said all the money his company has borrowed for investment has come from New Orleans banks, but he believes appraisals are finally moving up in the Bay and banks seem more willing to lend.
He believes Bay St. Louis needs a hotel and is thinking of that use for another property he owns, the former Second Street Elementary School. The MacPhailles live in New Orleans, where they are developing condominiums and other properties.
“I'm busy here, but I really do love the Bay,” said MacPhaille, who has a second home in Bay St. Louis. “ I like what's going on over there, so I've been buying up property and encouraging my friends to invest.”