Profile 2021: Investing in a neighborhood and community’s future
For Tom Pharr, developing and designing new homes and restoring and reimagining historic properties are not opposing forces. They are part of a vision he has for a downtown Vicksburg neighborhood that is quickly becoming reality.
Pharr, who is well-known for his stellar designs that are sought after by those around the world, has placed his focus and resources in recent years not just on protecting and building upon the values of properties he owns within the Springfield neighborhood, nestled along portions of Cherry, First East and Adams streets, but also preserving a historical dream set forth more than two centuries ago.
“Two centuries ago, when Newitt Vick established this neighborhood, he called it Springfield, a neighborhood for the professional working class. And what he meant by that is he wanted a place in town that was convenient for merchants, people who worked downtown in his newly developed city,” said Pharr, a native of Vicksburg, and owner of historic Anchuca Bed and Breakfast. “So what I am excited about is our young generation desiring to be here, and seeing a bright future and a good place to invest your money in historic Vicksburg.”
More than two decades ago, when Pharr came back to Vicksburg and invested in the restoration of Anchuca, he saw a surrounding neighborhood that needed help and investment, but the value was not there. Those who wanted to invest money in older homes or new construction could not find the financial backing to make doing so make sense.
The refurbishing costs of homes far outpaced what the finished product would appraise for, making for poor investments.
In recent years, Pharr has changed that. First, with the relocation and restoration of his home, Springfield, located at 800 Cherry St., and next with the construction of two new cottages just a few feet away, Pharr has put his money where his vision is.
In looking at how other historic cities such as New Orleans and Charleston preserved their history and flourished, Pharr learned that doing so required that a historic neighborhood — like Springfield — needed investing in surrounding areas.
“You do this by taking these vacant lots and designing things that fit the fabric of the neighborhood and look appropriate, that could be completely modern for today’s lifestyle. You create a product that is desirable and that people can get the bank loan necessary to be part of the neighborhood,” he said. “By doing that I realized we could build up the values surrounding these most historic properties and for the future of the economic values for the whole community — making our community more desirable and valuable.”
Those new homes along Cherry Street were sold as owner-financing, given that the quality of construction, the finishes and the amenities, did not have proper comparables in the area. Now, they have served as the catalyst for new projects.
“It is all about preserving our history and by doing so making a huge contribution to our economic stability. And the future growth of the neighborhood is dependent on that investment. To continue to make it a very desirable place to live,” he said. “The big difference between neighborhoods and subdivisions is that subdivisions come and go, but neighborhoods stand for centuries — or at least they can stand economically if you reinvest in them to keep them valuable and desirable.”
Recently, Pharr completed three new homes on First East Street, the 1100 block, that feature gourmet kitchens, beautifully-designed master baths, closets and high ceilings.
These homes have all been sold with the option of financing with local banks thanks to increased property values since the construction of the Cherry Street cottages.
And there is more to come. Pharr continues to look for lots that could be revitalized and reimagined. His goal is to look at other areas in and around Springfield that could attract residents and investors, with the idea of continuing and preserving the vision that he shares with one Vick had centuries ago.