Senior Services to sell, relocate Seashore facility


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Hurricane Katrina helped Mississippi Methodist Senior Services, Inc. reach a decision on an issue that had been discussed for several years.

Senior Services has reached an agreement in principle to sell Seashore Retirement Community in Biloxi for about $10 million. Senior Services will use the proceeds of the sale to build a new campus farther inland from its present beachfront location.

Steve McAlilly, Senior Services president and CEO, said the move will help the facility avoid some of the problems it experienced with Katrina and other storms.

“It seems that in the last 10 years, storms have been more frequent and stronger,” he said. “This one had major damage. It’s hard on older people to have to evacuate like that. It was hard on us that about 50 (Seashore residents) would not leave. We were responsible for them and taking care of them until (the facility) could get open again.”

“Two or three years ago, we began having this conversation about the danger of being right on the beach,” McAlilly said. “We had the property appraised, and it wasn’t financially feasible to sell at that time.”

However, since Katrina hit, property values along the beach have escalated. Senior Services, based in Tupelo, rejected one offer. The prospective buyer, whom McAlilly declined to name, made another offer that was accepted.

McAlilly said he doesn’t expect the deal to close for at least 60 days.         

Another factor in the decision to sell the property now is a one-time opportunity offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to qualifying facilities damaged by Katrina to relocate to higher ground. One building at the facility is designated for low-income elders.

Seashore Retirement Community includes three buildings sitting on seven acres across U.S. 90 from the Gulf of Mexico. Two of the buildings sustained major damage, and the third sustained substantial damage. Two of the buildings have re-opened, and about 120 people live at the facility. Seashore has a capacity of about 200 residents.

Seashore and Senior Services sustained roughly $1 million in uninsured losses and expenses associated with Katrina. McAlilly said the expenses included the cost of evacuating residents and paying employees, who did not lose any paychecks following the storm.

When McAlilly first told residents about the sale, it appeared they would have 90 days after closing to relocate until the new facility is complete. However, McAlilly said it now appears the buyer will allow the residents to remain at Seashore until the new campus is ready some 18 months after construction begins. He said Senior Services is looking at property near I-10.

“We feel confident everybody will be able to stay there until the new facility opens. It’s going to cost us some money to do that, but that’s what we are going to do,” he said.

McAlilly also said he has offered all residents the option of relocating to another Senior Services facility until the new campus opens.

While Senior Services believes relocating the facility is in the residents’ best long-term interest, some residents are not happy about the sale.

“I believe it’s the wrong thing for them to do,” five-year resident Nell Eubank told the Sun Herald newspaper. “We have come back after Katrina and fixed our apartments up. Most of us are just happy to be here. I have the oak trees, as well as the water. It’s just not right.”

Seashore opened in 1966 and was Senior Services’ first facility. “We began here in Biloxi in 1966. This is our first campus, and over the years it has grown from Biloxi to Hernando,” McAlilly said.

Senior Services has 11 campuses across the state.