Labeled by many as the ugliest building in downtown Biloxi, the old federal courthouse soon will be demolished to make room for new, attractive development in the historic area of downtown.
Community Bank recently purchased the nearly one square block property on which the old federal building stands at the corner of Lameuse Street and Howard Avenue. The company on Wednesday announced plans to build a modern financial service center offering treasury management services, business and consumer lending, mortgages, trust and wealth management services.
“We plan to construct a beautiful signature building consistent with the character and charm of Biloxi’s historic downtown,” said Eric Chambless, Community Bank’s market president. “This is a significant investment for our company and demonstrates Community Bank’s commitment to downtown revitalization.”
Community Bank is chartered in Mississippi and has 47 full service locations in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said he has seen plans for the new bank at the southwest corner of the property and heard about other possible development on the downtown acreage. Community Bank currently has a facility nearby, he said, and once the new bank opens the existing bank could go up for sale to provide more business space in the downtown.
Last week Biloxi’s Architectural and Historical Review Commission approved plans to demolish the old federal courthouse following Mardi Gras.
“There’s no support for us keeping it,” said Bill Raymond, historical administrator. “Demolition will actually strengthen the historical integrity in this area.”
The building has stood vacant for 15 years since 2003, when a new federal courthouse was built in Gulfport. The building’s boxy construction and thin slits of windows don’t fit the downtown architecture.
Raymond said he’s been to conferences that used a photo of the building to show what kind of building doesn’t work in a downtown business area.
The previous owner presented plans to the city a few years ago to remodel the building and make it mixed use, with business on the bottom floors and residences above, but the work never was done.