By Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - The oldest apartment complex in Greenville soon will be renovated for low-income housing.

The Les-Lane Apartments will have eight units, each with two bedrooms and one bathroom.

The Delta Democrat-Times reports ( ) that the $600,000 project is being funded by a combination of private and public money, including some from the Mississippi Development Authority.

Mayor John Cox says the renovation project is a “bright spot” for Greenville.

“One of the overall goals of any government is to improve the quality of life of its citizens,” Cox said. “This project is something that will help accelerate that goal.”?

David Smith Construction Inc., of Inverness, is the contractor for the project. Smith says he hopes to retain up to 70 percent of the original building.

Herman Benjamin Nelken, who at the time owned The Fair apparel store in downtown Greenville, built the Les-Lane apartments in 1938. The building is named for his children, Lester and Hellane.

The building housed several prominent Greenville residents, including Frank Baldwin, who owned WJPR, Greenville’s first commercial radio station.

Nelken’s grandson, Benjy Nelken, who is the owner and curator of the Greenville History Museum, said he has fond memories of Les-Lane.

Nelken in 2008 sold the property to Cleveland-based Word of Deliverance Hospice.

That group’s plans to renovate the building fell through and the property was sold to the revitalization association in August 2013.

“It housed people for 70 years,” Nelken said. “I think it’s great that it’s coming back to life. It’s just a block off the main downtown district. For me, personally, it holds a lot of memories.”

Greater Greenville is working on restoring several houses in Greenville but this is the first major project the group has undertaken in nine years, association president George King said.

“We look forward to bringing families into the downtown and revitalizing the downtown area,” King said.

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