The year 2020 has been a lot. In fact, it has rendered even the writers of the Oxford Dictionaries speechless.
According to a National Post report, the writers could not decide on a single word for 2020, which is traditionally done each year.
“It’s both unprecedented and a little ironic — in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other,” said Casper Grathwol, the president of Oxford Dictionaries.
One word that has dominated headlines worldwide in 2020 is coronavirus.
On the Northside, some of the biggest stories of 2020 have been dotted with now household terms like “social distancing” and “new normal.”
Government officials and medical experts considered best practices for public safety and limiting the spread of the virus. School administrators, teachers and staff worked to ensure a safe, productive end to the 2019-20 school year and the return of students in the fall.
Meanwhile, business owners and restaurateurs pivoted to provide virtual and curbside services to keep their doors open.
Despite the challenges, growth continued across the Northside from commercial and residential development to the completion of several road projects.
Coronavirus first impacted the Northside when Jackson Prep canceled a visit from its sister school in China in January. The school, located in China’s Zhejiang Province, had planned to send nine students and two chaperones to “experience the American education system.”
The trip was canceled around the time 830 cases of coronavirus had been reported in mainland China, and the first two cases of the virus were reported in the United States.
Shortly after, work began on the Museum Trail when city officials approved a contractor for the $1.6 million project.
Northsiders have largely been supportive of the project, even helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help cover the local match for the federally-funded project. Hemphill Construction was awarded a $1,579,850 contract to construct the roughly 2.5-mile multiuse path.
The trail will run from the Two Mississippi Museums in downtown Jackson to the LeFleur Museum District on Museum Boulevard. The eight to 10-foot wide path will cut through the Belhaven neighborhood before running over I-55 at Riverside Drive.
Proponents believe the trail could be the backbone of a much larger system that would connect cities across the metro, such as Flowood, Ridgeland, other parts of Jackson and Clinton.
The project is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2020.
The beginning of the year brought other changes to the city of Jackson, including moving forward with the Museum Boulevard repaving project. The $1.8 million project will include mill and overlay of a 3,600 foot section of the road from Riverside Drive to where Museum Boulevard changes from four lanes to two lanes, including curb and gutter repairs as needed.
The road is located off Lakeland Drive, near the Lakeland/I-55 North intersection, and is home to the Mississippi Children’s Museum, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.
The city also began accepting proposals for new management for the Jackson Convention Complex at the request of the Capital City Convention Center Commission following years of revenue loss.
The management firm SMG World failed to meet its budget for the previous fiscal year, which led the city to allocate $130,000 to keep the facility running through the end of the year.
Some good news came early in the year for the Ross Barnett Reservoir, as reservoir officials lowered the lake level to fight against an invasive aquatic plant that has plagued the reservoir’s waters for approximately two years.
No live giant salvinia plants were found then, which luckily continued throughout the year after the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District invested a large amount of money and resources into eradicating it.
Reservoir officials also continued construction work on Spillway Road and worked to secure funding for the relocation of the Bob Anthony Parkway.
The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District was awarded a $2.8 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant to relocate an existing 3.1-mile segment of Bob Anthony Parkway off the dam.
In Madison County, attorney Mike Espy made his return as board attorney. Espy previously served in this role from 2012 to 2016.
His first year back on the job has been a busy one, as he has represented the county in a number of issues, including the ongoing litigation with NCL Waste over a third proposed landfill for Madison County.
The Fondren Business Improvement District (BID) began to take shape with members nominating and voting on a board of directors in January at the first meeting.
The BID is bordered by Lakeland Drive at I-55 to the east, Oxford Avenue between Hartfield and Taylor Streets to the west, the intersection of North State Street and Old Canton Road to the south and Hartfield and Glenway Drive to the north.
There are roughly 150 parcels within the district, and one third are tax-exempt. The BID was approved by property owners in 2018 and was made official at the first of 2020.
Madison County residents continued fighting plans to locate a third landfill on County Line Road.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) voted to table its decision on a permit application from NCL Waste to build a landfill at 2858 North County Line Road.
The landfill would sit on a roughly 166-acre site, with 89 being dedicated for the disposal area.
NCL Waste submitted applications for the following permits: a solid waste management permit for the operation of the proposed municipal solid waste landfill; a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for storm water runoff; a wastewater pretreatment permit for the discharge of leachate to a permitted wastewater treatment facility; an Air Permit to Construct air emission equipment; a Title V air permit for the operation of air emission equipment; and a water quality certification regarding impacts to waters of the state and wetlands.
The decision to conduct an updated needs assessment fell on the Madison County board of supervisors, which initially declined to do so.
However, after NCL Waste sued the county for this decision, the board voted to conduct a needs assessment contingent on the results of the Ridgeland annexation trial and additions to the existing Canton and Little Dixie landfills.
Ridgeland Costco officially opened its doors, as Ridgeland officials prepared for the traffic increase it was anticipated to bring. The 145,000-square-foot store is located on Highland Colony, south of the Old Agency roundabout.
The Costco fuel station was constructed across the street.
To accommodate the additional 6,061 trips anticipated from the wholesale warehouse and the additional 2,697 daily trips anticipated from the 16-pump fuel center a new signal was added on Highland Colony Parkway and the Lake Harbour extension was completed.
Nearby, road construction around the ramps at the I-55 northbound to I-220 southbound and I-55 to the Natchez Trace interchanges wrapped up.
The project, designed to relieve congestion during peak hours, included widening the I-55 north bridge over the Interstate 220 ramp to provide for the additional lane. Interchanges were also modified to incorporate the additional lane.
The project also included milling and overlaying I-55 northbound lanes from County Line Road to the Natchez Trace, the west frontage road between Old Agency Road and Steed Road, the roundabout at Old Agency, the northeast loop from Old Agency to I-55 and the southwest ramp from Old Agency to I-55.
Meanwhile, in downtown Jackson, the Sun-N-Sand Motor Hotel was granted landmark status. However, the city ultimately decided to raze the building, but the sign was saved.
ZoOceanarium was tapped to take over management of the Jackson Zoo after it closed to the public last fall. However, the partnership has not yet been made official, even after the city obtained a temporary exhibitor’s license in order to reopen on a smaller scale in the midst of the pandemic.
In preparation for a return to traveling, a TSA precheck site opened at Jackson City Hall. This service allows fliers to go through an expedited security screening before boarding a plane.
The city worked to open the office before the airport’s busiest travel months (in a normal year): May, June and July.
The Madison-Ridgeland High School building turned art center was announced as the site for the new Madison city hall pending renovations.
This project will be part of the Madison at Main development, which will create the city’s designated downtown area. The development will include office space, restaurants and other commercial opportunities down the street from the school building at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 51, extending south to Madison Avenue.
As for downtown Ridgeland, the city began taking proposals for professional services for the conceptual design for enhancements to the Railroad District, which runs along West Jackson Street, the city’s designated downtown area.
Long term plans could include crosswalks, lighting and intersection features to make the area more walkable.
As construction got underway on Ridgeland’s new city hall on the north side of School Street and the west side of Highway 51, the current Ridgeland city hall building was approved by the board for sale.
The property, located at 304 Highway 51, is zoned C-3, which is defined as a convenience commercial district.
Dab, a Northside company that markets hand sanitizer, rapidly expanded as demands skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic in early March.
Northsiders canceled spring break plans as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended travelers avoid all nonessential travel to several countries. In mid-March, only 500 cases and 22 deaths related to the virus had been reported in the United States at that time.
Within days, schools and daycares across the country closed their doors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. School officials, students and parents worked to adjust to online classes.
At the same time, Northside brides began making plans to postpone or scale back ceremonies to meet CDC recommendations.
The performing arts community was hit hard as restrictions limiting crowd sizes and social distancing requirements led to the cancellation of live performances, in turn resulting in loss of funds and ticket sales for various Northside performing arts groups.
Many switched to virtual performances in the meantime, while ballet classes temporarily met via Zoom. Local venue owner Arden Barnett brought awareness to the Save Our Stages Act, designed to aid music venue owners in the wake of the pandemic.
Northsiders began getting creative during quarantine, as Belhaven residents placed hearts in their windows in support of healthcare workers, while other residents placed stuffed animals in yards for children to take part in “bear hunts.”
A Jackson student took a photo series capturing what the class of 2020 did during quarantine or what they missed out on in their senior year due to the pandemic, such as prom or sporting events.
Prom was canceled and graduations moved to drive through ceremonies, while businesses grappled with limited sales.
Over the summer, the Mississippi Book Festival was another casualty of the pandemic.
Over the summer months, the Madison County School District prepared to reopen and accommodate its growing number of students with an additional 18 classrooms added to two elementary campuses. A new school is also in the works to accommodate sixth grade students in the Germantown Zone.
The building is set to be located on the 16th section land near, but not connected to, Germantown Middle School.
In the meantime, the legal battle surrounding the Gluckstadt incorporation effort was ongoing with a lengthy trial that could go on for several months.
In Jackson, another legal battle came to an end when the city of Jackson settled its suit with Siemens for roughly $90 million. The city announced plans to use the funds to restore Jackson’s water bond rating and repay the city’s general fund and make emergency repairs to the sewer system.
Those weren’t the only improvements planned for the city this year, as approximately $14.3 million in road projects got underway on the Northside over the summer, including sidewalk repairs along Lakeland Drive, paving on North State Street and overlay on East Northside Drive, Old Canton Road, Canton Mart Road and Pear Orchard Road.
In Madison County, officials secured an additional $4 million in funding from the state legislature for the Reunion Parkway, a project that has been in the works since the early 2000s. The project is currently in the right-of-way acquisition phase.
In fact, three of Madison county’s major road projects are in the right-of-way acquisition phase, including Bozeman Road and Reunion Parkway Phases II and III.
These are the Bozeman road project, and Reunion Parkway phases II and III.
In Madison, construction got underway on the Hoy Road project in October. The project, which has been publicly known since 2018, should be completed in the next 18 months.
Across the Northside, schools cautiously returned to classrooms in the fall, with many coupling classroom instruction with distance learning online.
Northside football fans lamented the loss of tailgating, as Mississippi universities worked out the safest way to move forward with football season. This included scaling back on crowd sizes and encouraging social distancing in the stands.
Some of the results of the pandemic were not all bad, as event cancellations allowed for the $2.2 million renovation of the Mississippi Coliseum to be completed five months ahead of schedule.
Renovations included repairing and painting the floors and walls, installing new seating and adding handrails and reflectors.
In Ridgeland, the city wrapped up the extension of Lake Harbour Drive in early September. The $28 million extension connects Lake Harbour from Highway 51 to Highland Colony Parkway. The four-lane roadway and connecting bridge over I-55 is expected to improve traffic flow and provide increased access to local businesses.
In Jackson, the project to improve the surface of Old Canton Road between North State Street and Meadowbrook Road got underway following delays in anticipation of Hurricane Sally.
In an effort to prevent future flooding, Hemphill Construction Co. started work to widen Belhaven Creek and take other measures so it can accommodate more water, after the city council approved the contract in October.
Meanwhile, the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation moved forward in its effort to establish a community improvement district as it neared the number of signatures needed for its petition.
The foundation needs 1,045 signatures, which is 60 percent of taxable property owners in the proposed district, to present the petition to the city of Jackson.
Based on 2018 land rolls and tax assessment, the foundation is looking to generate $206,000 a year to be used for public safety and security measures, capital improvements and beautification.