Developers see value in facelift at Westwood Square

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Last year’s Walk-On’s Independence Bowl football game between Florida State University and Southern Miss indirectly had an effect on the revitalization of Westwood Square Shopping Center in Hattiesburg, economic development officials said Thursday during an open house of the property.

Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar, which sponsored the Independence Bowl, is building a new restaurant in the shopping center, located at 4400 Hardy St. The coincidence was not lost on Todd Jackson, the Area Development Partnership’s executive director for economic development.

“It was ironic that Walk-On’s announced new restaurants in Tallahassee, Florida, and Hattiesburg on the same day (about a month after the Independence Bowl),” he said.

“It was like a perfect storm, but it wasn’t planned that way,” said Colby Herrington of Herrington Realty, Inc. of Mobile, Alabama. “We were already looking at doing this redevelopment façade. It went from being ‘This is a really good deal’ to ‘This is what we really want to do.’ It pushed us over the edge to really get this restaurant built.”

The location of the Hattiesburg Walk-On’s is a major reason that the partners expect the restaurant to be successful. The intersection of Interstate 59 and Hardy Street is the third-busiest intersection in the state, with a total of 106,000 cars per day traveling that route.

Herrington’s father, Tim, said a whirlwind of changes are expected to the shopping center in the next two months.

“We are going to redo the red awnings around the stores, and the signage will be replaced,” he said. “We are really going to bring that corner (with Walk-On’s) to the forefront. We will be creating additional space with the loss of three tenants and we will add frontage. We are talking to tenants, including hotels. The lighting will be changing to LED lights with the help of Mississippi Power Company.”

MPC representatives at the open house said more commercial customers are turning to the LED lights because they are more economical, cost less to operate and are easier to maintain. “They have become more popular for businesses,” they said.

The Walk-On’s restaurant, which was planned for 8,500 square feet, has since expanded to 9,800 square feet, with more room for expansion in the rear of the building. As the Herringtons and Connecticut developer Ken Kleban toured construction of the Walk-On’s last week, the men discussed enlarging the outdoor beer garden by as much as 2,500 square feet.

Colby Herrington said the addition of Walk-On’s to the Westwood Square roster is a win-win. Other tenants include Play It Again Sports, Winn Dixie and Harbor Freight Tools.

“Whenever you can come in and bring in a regional tenant like Walk-On’s that is well known, it boosts the value of everything around it,” he said. “(Putting more value on the tenants in Westwood Square) makes it more appealing to investors and people who are coming in to look at the area. They see that we are creating value, and they want to come in and mimic that.”

Another major undertaking in the area has been the Kleban Properties’ purchase of the Corinthian Courts apartment complex south of the shopping center. Kleban said the 132 units in 68 buildings will be gutted and renovated, and it will be renamed Oak Grove Place. Amenities like a splash pad and barbecue grills are planned.

Two hundred new jobs are expected at Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar, which broke ground in January 2018. Co-founder and owner Brandon Landry called the twist on Louisiana-based food and the atmosphere as a family-friendly location to enjoy sports.

“Yes, we’re a sports bar, but we’re not your typical sports bar,” he said at the groundbreaking. “A lot of sports bars out there are where you go in to watch a game, drink a beer and if you get really hungry, you’ll get something to eat. We’re completely the opposite. You into our place to eat first; the game, the drinks and everything else is a little bit lagniappe. We call it ‘Game Day with a Taste of Louisiana.’”

The Hattiesburg franchisees are Jeffrey St. Romain and Matt Gallagher. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees joined the company in 2015.

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