Downtown Jackson boomingBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Hundreds of new jobs are coming to downtown Jackson, as are new hotel rooms and new developments.
Recently, a ribbon cutting was held to mark the opening of the downtown regional business office of Baptist Memorial Health Care.
The office occupies three floors of the Regions Plaza building and will employ 250 people, according to a news release.
The development is one of several that are bringing new jobs and new economic activity to the downtown business district, according to Downtown Jackson Partners (DJP) President Ben Allen.
“Entergy is … adding 80 jobs. Fresenius, a medical systems diagnostic laboratory, is bringing in 50 jobs. RevClaims is opening up on the corner of West and Pearl streets with 150 employees,” he said. “(That’s) 530 good, white-collar jobs.
“Fresenius is almost finished. Entergy will come online in a couple of months. It’s under construction as we speak.”
Entergy is spending $12 million to renovate and add on to a facility at the corner of Commerce and South streets, he said.
RevClaims, which handles liability and injury claims for medical providers, is relocating from another part of Jackson to the Charles Hooker Building at 277 E. Pearl St. Fresenius will be housed in a new facility at 656 N. State St.
“They demolished an old, ugly building and put in a new facility,” he said, referring to Fresenius. The construction cost “several million (dollars),” he said.
The new jobs will have a major economic impact on the city, as well as the Downtown Jackson Business Improvement District (BID), Allen said.
“They’re adding more synergy – more people downtown spending money, buying lunch, buying gasoline,” he said.
The BID includes 65 city blocks running from George Street on the north to South Street on the south, according to DJP’s Web site. It is bordered by Jefferson Street to the east and Mill and Court streets to the west.
The district has approximately 30 restaurants, and a growing number of hotel rooms and apartments.
During the day, the district by itself could be considered a small city, with 21,000 people coming to the corridor for work. At night, the population dwindles to between 500 and 600, Allen said.
However, hundreds of new apartments are under construction or on the drawing board, which promises to increase downtown residency significantly.
Thirty-one apartments are coming online as part of the Capitol Arts Lofts. The development includes four two-story buildings, with retail on the bottom and residential on top. The development is located on West Capitol Street, across from the King Edward Hotel. It is owned by HRI Properties.
Another 128 apartments are being built as part of the Edison Walthall Hotel redevelopment.
Other projects, like the Landmark building redevelopment and the Deposit Guaranty Plaza redevelopment, which both promise hundreds of additional apartments, are on hold.
Landmark is owned by Dyke Nelson Architecture in Baton Rouge.
“They want to have 200 apartments. It’s not something we can jump up and down and say is going to happen. If they can get parking to work out, it’s done,” Allen said.
Dyke Nelson is in talks with the city and the Jackson Redevelopment Authority (JRA) to build a new parking facility, which is needed before the project can be financed. “Banks are reluctant to finance a reconstruction job without a place to park,” Allen explained.
Meanwhile, Hertz Investment Group is waiting on historic tax credits to turn the Deposit Guaranty building into an apartment complex with 100 units. In 2016, Allen told the Sun that nearly $100 million in new downtown development was on hold, in part, because of the uncertainly of the state’s historic tax credit program. That year, the Mississippi Legislature allocated $60 million in credits to the Mississippi Historic Preservation Tax Incentive Program, and extended the program until 2020. However, lawmakers placed a cap on what could be awarded each year at $12 million. That cap raised questions with developers and stalled work on three major projects, Allen said.
The program offers developers a 25 percent tax credit for the “rehabilitation of historic structures used for residential or business purposes,” according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) Web site.
To qualify, buildings must be listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places, be certified as a “contributing property” in a National Register historic district, or be designated a city or state landmark.
Developers are not given money, but are awarded credits, which can be used to offset their annual state income taxes.
Allen didn’t know how much Hertz was seeking for the Deposit Guaranty project. However, the Capitol Arts Lofts relied on $1.6 million to offset the project’s cost.
Tax credits aside, Allen discussed other challenges in bringing new projects to an urban area.
“It’s just slow. It’s not like going to a field in the country, getting a TIF bond and building everything (from scratch),” he said. “You have all kinds of things that have to be checked on. Parking is always an issue.”
However, the former Ward One city councilman is pleased with the progress that has been made. “It is happening. A few years ago, Capital Towers was almost empty. Regions Plaza was almost empty. (Today) they’re almost full.”