Improvements to the marina at Main Harbor are the focus of the Harbor Walk development at Barnett Reservoir, according to the project manager.
“Our main focus is to get the marina back in focus like it was years ago,” said Michael Stuart of JM Stuart and Partners, the development project manager.
Stuart couldn’t provide details about the plans for Harbor Walk other than to say, “I don’t know what the end result will be. It will be nice. I know patience has worn thin. We’re committed to it.”
So far, the multimillion-dollar development that was announced in 2005 and was supposed to build condos, restaurants and office space on 110 acres of reservoir property in Ridgeland has only resulted in improvement to the bulkhead at the marina.
Stuart works for George Bishop, the Texas billionaire who was an investor in the development initially led by John Burwell, a reservoir resident. Burwell died in 2018.
“I came in after the gentleman died,” Stuart said, noting that Bishop at that point became an “active” owner.
Bishop owns the lease on the property for Harbor Walk and pays more than $600,000 a year in lease fees.
Bishop, a Smith County native, is a 1958 Mississippi State University petroleum geology graduate who in 1981 founded GeoSouthern Energy, which grew to become one of the largest, privately held producers of oil and gas in the country. GeoSouthern sold its south Texas fields to Devon Energy for $6 billion in 2013. He received an honorary degree from MSU in 2019.
With a real time net worth of $2.1 billion as of July 15, Bishop comes in at No. 1,517 on the Forbes 2021 list of the world’s 2,755 billionaires. Jeff Bezos, founder of e-commerce giant Amazon, led the list with a real time net worth of $207.9 billion.
Stuart, who has an office in the Smith Marine building at the reservoir, said there were operational challenges to straighten out when he was brought in and a business plan had to be devised. “This is an operating business we have to run on a daily basis,” he said.
Stuart couldn’t answer questions about whether Harbor Walk would include condos, office space, restaurants and retail as originally planned.
“We’re looking at a lot of different options,” he said. “Every time I meet with PRV (the Pearl River Water Supply District), they ask me about a condo development, and I don’t know where they came up with that,” he said.
Last fall, soil testing, an early step in construction, revealed gasoline under the site where the Dock, a popular bar located on the water near Main Harbor Marina once served food in the day and drinks at night. The Dock closed in 2004 and was later dismantled to make room for Harbor Walk.
Gasoline tanks on the site had been removed in the late 1980s and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s declaration back then that the site was clean.
“That put a stick in the spoke and stopped everything,” Stuart said about the results of the soil testing.
When a more concrete plan for Harbor Walk is available, Bishop said he will be happy to speak about it.
Bishop is committed to Harbor Walk, he said.
“He’s been here a few times,” he said. “He wants to finish what he’s started and at the end of the day do something nice for the state of Mississippi because the state of Mississippi has been good to him.”