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Developer backs off plan to convert historic school to hotel in Bay St. Louis

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — A developer has withdrawn plans to turn a former school building into a hotel on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Jim MacPhaille is a New Orleans developer who owns a restaurant and several other buildings and businesses in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the Sun Herald reported.

He said he doesn’t want to fight with neighbors about the Spanish Revival-style former school, which was built in the 1920s and first housed Bay High School. It has been vacant since it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

MacPhaille had proposed converting it into a 70-room boutique hotel. But, he didn’t meet all the requirements for a zoning change.

Attorney Leonard Blackwell, representing neighbors, said MacPhaille’s plans were too vague to allay their concerns about how any changes would affect the character of the established neighborhood. Blackwell said the neighbors weren’t opposed to a project, as long as they know what’s being planned.

“I don’t know that the residents with the right kind of a condominium project would resist that,” Blackwell said. “Or maybe even if there was a boutique as long as it didn’t have too many rooms.”

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a Mississippi Landmark property. Changes to the property would require a permit from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“It’s really something for the city to figure out if it wants that property rezoned or fixed so somebody can develop it,” MacPhaille said. “I just don’t want to fight with my neighbors.”