Aug. 24--BAY ST. LOUIS -- This city stopped being called Shieldsboro in 1882. Now the old name is once again coming into common use.
Permits have been taken out for the first phase of construction on Shieldsboro, the city's newest and largest-ever subdivision. Located on 42 acres running beside St. Charles Street and fronting Old Spanish Trail, the development will have 250 homes when completed.
It's starting much more modestly, though. Developer Bill Shanks of Jackson has taken out 12 building permits for the first units. Infrastructure construction is now complete on the land, and building of the first houses will start soon.
Given the vagaries of weather, Shanks said last week, it is difficult to say how soon those first units will be finished.
"I wish I knew," he said. "I'd like to say it will be 90 days, but it will probably be more like 120 days before the first ones are completed. They'll start rolling out one every five or six days after that."
Shieldsboro homes will be marketed in the $195,000 to $250,000 range. The first homes will be three- and four-bedroom models built toward the St. Charles side of the development, Shanks said: "One of the first things we'll build is a model home, and there will be a sales office in that one."
City officials look for quality to be the hallmark of Shieldsboro homes. "Knowing Bill Shanks, it's going to be a fine development," said Bobby Compretta, a Realtor and city councilman whose Ward 4 includes the subdivision. "He does things right."
There is a good chance some Hancock County consumers will find the houses on the pricy side. And given the current economic downturn, it is difficult to gauge what the market will bear.
"The market right now is not ready for anything," Compretta said. "But things are going to get better, hopefully after the first of the year."
The project has been many months in the making. Shanks first came to Bay St. Louis and took his time learning the area before he bought property here. Photographs of the old-style architecture were taken and studied -- a wise move, as it turned out, as Hurricane Katrina removed many of the older homes.
The new homes will feature two or three baths, depending upon the number of bedrooms. Some will also have an unfinished upstairs room buyers can customize for another bedroom, office or bonus room.
Another phase will follow, consisting of one-story condominiums with four to six units in each. "The engineers are working on our second phase right now. These will be mainly for older people, or others who don't want a second story," Shanks said.
Shanks bought the property that will become Shieldsboro in April 2006. Aside from architecture, the name also will evoke visions of yesteryear.
From its founding until 1818, Bay St. Louis had its current name. Then it was changed in honor of Thomas Shields, who had received land grants in the area. The city reverted to Bay St. Louis in 1882.
Shanks used an arborist consultant on tree removal and followed city ordinances on removal of oak trees. So far he has cleared land for 6,900 linear feet of streets.
Even with a tight economy and a mortgage-lending industry that is writhing in pain, Shanks' decision to go ahead with Shieldsboro may prove wise. There's nothing like getting on at the ground floor, even though ready homebuyers are not currently in abundance.
"I don't think we have them right now," Compretta said, "but we will in the future." Shanks, he added, is "a first-class builder. He's here for the long run, and I'm sure he'll do it right."