The Pope Building was one of the first "skyscrapers" in downtown Corpus Christi. Built in 1929, it was named after its owner, Walter Elmer Pope.
Pope was a lawyer and a powerful Texas legislator. He even ran for Governor in 1924, losing to the legendary "Ma" Ferguson.
He sold his ownership of the Corpus Christi Times newspaper in 1928 in order to finance his 10 story "skyscraper" on Chaparral at Schatzell.
The 10th floor of the building was used as a hospital that operated from 1929 until 1945.
The fact that the building contained a hospital and the offices of many doctors and dentists led to the re-naming of the building after Pope's death in 1944. It became known as the Medical-Professional Building.
The building's function would change significantly in the 1970's.
In 1979, the building was converted into a 111 unit apartment building known as the "Sea Gulf Villa". For the past 43 years, the apartments have been home to many elderly and disabled tenants, providing subsidized affordable housing to most of them.
But, the building is now over 90 years old....and very much showing its age.
Pieces of the exterior facade have been crumbling, the plumbing system is a wreck, and the place has often been infested with rats and roaches.
But, things are about to change.
In July of 2019, the building was sold to Fishpond Development out of Austin.
The company announced that it would begin constructing a brand new, $15 million apartment complex on 6th Street (between Buford and Hancock) in the Spring of 2020. However, because of the pandemic, groundbreaking didn’t take place until December 21, 2020.
The 4 story building will contain 112 apartments, each about 700 square feet in size.
Once completed, all of the residents of the Sea Gulf Villa will be moved (at company expense) to the new building.
The new complex will be designated as Section 8 affordable housing, enabling rents for the former residents of Sea Gulf to remain unchanged.
Once all of the residents have been moved, the company will begin a multi-million dollar renovation of the old Medical-Professional Building on Chaparral.
It will be converted into about 100 loft style apartments, rented out at market price.
A part of downtown's historic district will be saved rather than be demolished.
It seems that with this plan, everybody wins. The scheduled completion date was originally set for 2021.
But, photos that I took recently show the complex still under construction.
Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.