Plans to transform Eola into senior living complex in the works

Published 12:12 am Friday, February 6, 2015

NATCHEZ — The historic Natchez Eola Hotel will be transformed into a 60 to 65-unit senior living complex.

Robert Lubin, the attorney who purchased the Eola for a second time in January, said he expects downtown Natchez to go through a great resurgence and the apartments will go along with that resurgence.

“We are going to go ahead and make it an upscale independent senior living building where people who are 55 and older can get a beautiful apartment in Natchez,” he said.

Email newsletter signup

“We are going to keep the restaurant open — all the kinds of things people would expect from a hotel will still be there.”

Lubin said he has a team working in the building currently to ensure the proposed layout changes will work, and the renovations should begin in the spring or early summer.

When completed, the units will be available for lease.

“The game plan right now is we need to do something to keep this building viable,” he said. “We are trying to balance the economic reality with the historic preservation, and everybody wants it to look, from a visual standpoint, the same as it does now.

“The beauty of that building is history. I have done a few of these conversations in other cites. With the upper floors you want to make it more modern, but you also want to preserve that historical character when you walk in.”

The Eola cannot continue to function as a hotel because the rooms — and especially the bathrooms — are too small to profitably market as a luxury hotel, Lubin said.

“I’ve owned it as a hotel before, and I didn’t make any money operating it as a hotel, neither did the previous owner,” he said. “It has 125 rooms now, and you can’t keep it as a hotel if no one is staying there and you are losing money.

“The only way to keep that building as a hotel is to substantially reduce the number of hotel rooms, but by doing that you’ve made it not economically viable,” he said.

Lubin said he ultimately plans to replace the lost hotel rooms in downtown Natchez with a development at another downtown location, but said those plans weren’t ready for discussion yet.

“I am totally bullish on downtown Natchez,” he said.

Lubin, who is based in Virginia, owned the hotel in the 1990s before selling it to Bob Dean.

He also served as the executive director of the holding company that applied to the Mississippi Gaming Commission to get permission for Magnolia Bluffs Casino to open, but casino officials have said the purchase of the Eola is not connected to the casino.