Downtown: The ‘Neighborhood' Solution | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Downtown: The ‘Neighborhood' Solution

On Thursday, July 3, 2003, real estate developer Mike Peters and his wife drove to Memphis to stay in the Peabody Hotel. After dinner, they were told in the lobby to check out the roof of the hotel, where a dance was going on. Peters tells us he was amazed when he got off the elevator. "There were 3,000 or 4,000 people up there," he said. "And most of them were 25- to 35-years-old. They probably thought I was some (sort of) chaperone!" Peters said that what surprised him was not that a party was going on, but that it happens every Thursday, not just the one prior to the Fourth of July.

He was impressed by the fact that the Peabody Hotel was such a center of life in Memphis that it could serve dinner to local couples, offer accommodations to tourists and host parties for young professionals. Although many of those people might not live in downtown Memphis, they still appreciate downtown Memphis as a neighborhood. It's that idea—neighborhood—that may be key to Jackson's downtown as well. Can a bunch of municipal projects, a ton of office space, an entertainment district, restaurants, retail and some artistic waystations ever coalesce into something we call a "neighborhood"?

The "Office Park" Problem
Downtown Jackson has a fundamental problem—it's essentially a municipal office park and government hub that turns into a ghost town after 5 p.m. and on the weekends, except for a few hours during church services. Because most people prefer not to work during those night and weekend hours, it's unlikely that the office-park mentality can make downtown vibrant.

Downtown office parks don't work. While Jackson enjoys a statisitcal 94-percent occupancy rate for offices downtown, it's expected that SkyTel will move from SkyTel Center this fall, as the WorldCom bankruptcy forces most SkyTel departments to move to Clinton. Likewise, some other large corporate and banking tenants have a great deal of sublet space available, sometimes for fairly low prices, thanks to their belt-tightening and acquisitions. The result may be a good bit of downtown office space on the market over the next few years as leases end.

With no prospects for another WorldCom anytime soon, smaller companies will need to fill that space. John Lawrence, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, says downtown has had good success with professionals, particularly attorneys, who are expanding their offices from New Orleans and elsewhere into Jackson. But all of that space will eventually open up in downtown, which will preclude building more anytime soon. The office park approach is likely a no-growth model.

That doesn't mean there's no business to do in supporting downtown's workers—indeed, some businesspeople, like Jeff Good of Mangia Bene, see golden opportunities in downtown. Good is working now to open his second Broad Street location, at 211 W. Capitol Street, only four blocks away from the Broad Street Express that Mangia Bene opened last year. This Broad Street will be a full-service outlet much like Broad Street's Banner Hall location, but with truncated hours—7:30-3:30—and only during the business week. Good says that Parkway Partners made them "a deal we couldn't refuse," and he plans to open by August. The restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch to downtown workers; it will also serve as a clearinghouse for downtown office catering.

A new business like a Broad Street is good news for downtown, but in a limited sense. In the past year, downtown has lost a popular evening coffee shop and venue (the Living Room) a gap filled somewhat by Ezra Brown's Seven* All-Arts Cafe. Many long-time customers lament the burning of the Iron Horse Grille, which often featured a packed parking lot. The limited breadth of the downtown economy—office workers and the people who love them—means limited growth opportunities for retail and services. In fact, the realities of the downtown market cut into the desires of restaurateurs, like Good, who would enjoy having longer hours.

"We want to be there (downtown) for 'tomorrow,'" Good said. "But opening a nighttime venue such as a Bravo downtown would be twiddling our thumbs."

The 'Neighborhood' Hypothesis
Downtown has to be an inviting place to work if it's going to keep business, and it's got to be a good place to play if it's going to stay open past 5. It needs, as John Lawrence puts it, "to be a neighborhood."

Locating your business downtown is theoretically always a good idea, because you're central for your city and suburban workers. With the new Union Station Transportation Center in downtown Jackson, for instance, bus travel may become a bit more efficient and effective for close-in city dwellers; as those buses will be headed right into downtown, workers can cut their transportation costs somewhat. That, in turn, enables people to take home more money from service and support jobs.

It helps if downtown is both central to your workforce and has a "cool" factor, which will encourage younger adults to look for work downtown. Under ideal circumstances, the CEO won't try to move the company closer to his or her home in the 'burbs when younger executives can nix the idea because they want to be closer to their homes and nightlife.

But that "cool" factor is going to come from increased retail, restaurant and nightlife in downtown, and that problem is one that conjures in the mind two things: a chicken and an egg. We're going to need people in that thriving downtown. They need a reason to come, whether as tourists or residents. One part of that formula is the municipal structure—the Telecommunications Training and Conference Center (construction begins soon) may be relatively unique in the region and invite business people and training seminars, but it isn't likely to be used for dances or parties. It'll look nice, but it's not all that cool.

Farish Street may one day be a very cool party spot, but its Phase One development—streets, sidewalks and basic services—is already six months behind its original schedule. According to Mayor Harvey Johnson, it'll be this fall before the streets, lights and services are flowing so that Phase Two, signing tenants and building venues, can happen.

Perhaps most exciting is the fact that the renovation of the King Edward Hotel is currently undergoing a sealed Request for Proposal process—the bids will be in by Aug. 5 and, presumably, we'll have some idea of the fate of the King Edward around that time or soon after. The rumblings on the street are that it will likely come back as a hotel for upper-end tourist and business travel, although Mayor Johnson and others have told us that at least one proposal could include a residential component.

Lawrence points out that it's the connectors between the municipal structures—the businesses and restaurants and shops between the convention center and the hotel—that make a town unique and that give it a sense of neighborhood. "When you go to Boston you don't remember their convention center and you don't remember the Hard Rock Café. You remember the places between those things," he said. Unique places in Jackson's downtown—the Mayflower, George Street Grocery, Peaches Café—are what make for personality and a neighborhood feel. Ironically, though, those are also the sorts of places that need considerable planning and management. While you can easily get the city to oversee a contractor who makes a large building go up, you need more personal management, services and mentoring to help small businesses thrive.

The arts are another important element. The Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, well known for bringing shows to Jackson such as the Majesty of Spain and next spring's Glory of Baroque Dresden, also spearheaded the Catfish on Parade arts promotion, which has encouraged some sightseers and families to go downtown on weekends. For the five or six months that each MCICE show is open, thousands of people visit per day. And, yet, during past shows, few downtown restaurants have stayed open to serve lunch on weekends, and almost no other services are available to those downtown visitors.

Jack Kyle, executive director of MCICE, notes that his group's shows and events such as the International Ballet Competition bring millions of dollars in economic impact to Jackson. But, he says, even large art shows or events, on their own, can't remake Jackson.

"Making the downtown a 'people place' is important. When you experience visitors walking about the streets from their hotels to the arts pavilion or to the Old Capitol Museum and to the Governor's Mansion … it certainly adds to the image that this is a very people-friendly downtown urban environment," he said. Kyle's goal is world-class exhibitions 365 days a year, preferably in a museum that, itself, is a work of art. But such a museum would only succeed along with effective small retail businesses and attractive streetscapes to thrive from increased tourism and cultural amenities.

Savvy business owners should welcome the opportunity. In particularly, those who are already downtown have the flexibility of making changes to meet demand. Jeff Good notes that any of their locations could easily change their hours and offerings whenever market demands dictate those changes. "You can't will it or coerce it or force it," he said. "It needs to be done through good solid business."

The "Vision" Thing
Mayor Johnson told the JFP that downtown will benefit from the excitement in Fondren and the renewal efforts in Belhaven and Belhaven Heights—including the recently announced status that Belhaven has gained in the national Urban Main Street Program. The program should help development initiatives along Fortification and North State streets. As those efforts move closer to downtown, they may help encourage residential living in downtown; in turn, those residents could support more downtown services.

Mike Peters says the Fondren model shows what an organization like Fondren Renaissance can do even without much grant money. But, he says, there probably is a need for more money from the government in order to make a Fondren-like success take place downtown. "We need some incentives to get retailers into those storefronts," said Peters, "And we need tremendous incentives to get a few people to do some cool residential (projects). Then you've got to promote, promote, promote." Peters points to Fondren, which offers regular art walks, outdoor programs and other promotions to help the businesses in its district.

The mayor seems to agree: "The government has a role and government has to provide incentives to make private investment attractive." He points to the façade grants that the city offers (the city will match up to $20,000 to improve the appearance of a businesses front) and equipment matching grants for certain types of businesses. However, towns like Memphis that have an entire population committed to renewal and small-business growth will often have comprehensive resources on the ground for entrepreneurs, particularly for helping to arrange financing or get sweetheart leases or mortgages for distressed city-owned property. Again, all of that takes planning and public-private partnership.

Actually, a master plan is underway in Jackson. In fact, two plans. While the King Edward proposals are coming in, the city is considering bids from planning organizations that, within the next year, will assess downtown Jackson's strengths, weaknesses and growth options and then lay out its recommendations. Meanwhile, another effort, spearheaded by the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, is looking into Jackson's image—finding its strengths, both obvious and hidden, and then turning that into a branding campaign along the lines of "I Love New York" or "Don't Mess with Texas." Janet Scott, director of ArtsAlliance of Jackson, feels such a program will bring many of Jackson's departments and businesses under "an umbrella for continuity," giving them a coherence, resonant message for their promotions and marketing.

Plans and proposals and grants and studies might be good ideas, but they're not the whole solution to the problem of how downtown Jackson will become an exciting urban neighborhood. What's needed is a grand vision. And we need enough citizens demanding that vibrant downtown, with leaders and cheerleaders helping to craft the solutions, building those partnerships and supporting those who take risks to make it happen.

In the past six months, some of the work has slowly begun, and interesting things are happening downtown. Perhaps in the next six months we'll start to get an idea of what the grand vision is, who the risk-takers are and how it will all take shape as something uniquely, well…Jackson.
___________

What's Up Downtown

The following is a list of projects and time
estimates according to the City of Jackson:

• Farish Street Entertainment
District—Infrastructure upgrades in progress
• Union Station Transportation
Center—Should be complete this fall
• King Edward Hotel—Requests for Proposals for redevelopment due in August
• Mill Street Viaduct Improvement
Project—(ETA not provided by press time)
• Metro Jackson Parkway—Phase I in progress / Phase II should begin this fall
• Telecommunications Training and Conference Center—construction should begin soon
• Fortification Street Improvements—Design Contract is being awarded this month
• Carver Library Renovation—Mid-Late fall of this year
• Renovation of Smith Robertson Museum to add studio space and other amenities to the upper floor—slated to begin mid-late fall of this year
• Renovations to City Hall—should be complete by February of 2004
• Renovations to Police Headquarters—Internal demolition has begun
• Federal Courthouse—should begin by the end of the year

Todd Stauffer is the publisher of the Jackson Free Press. This begins an occasional series looking at development and renewal in Jackson's downtown and surrounding areas.

Previous Comments

ID
77071
Comment

I was driving around downtown the other and, like I do quite frequently, and I turned down George Street. From the work they've done to the Sillers Building to the new Justice Facility that's occupying the parking lot that was adjacent to George Street Grocery, downtown is starting to look a lot better! I've always loved a lot of the architecture downtown, but it's so refreshing to see all the improvements going on. It's about time. I'm ecstatic that SOMETHING will be done with the King Edward and Farish Street. Those are two huge eyesores and I'm glad that SOMETHING is gonna be done. We definitely need at least SOME apartments downtown. Maybe a grocery store, book store, music store, etc. Any or all of these would definitely add to the "neighborhood" feel.

Author
John
Date
2003-07-12T12:17:05-06:00
ID
77072
Comment

I, too, have hopes and dreams of a great downtown area. I would like to hear more specific ideas and visions of others. The key is for downtown to become the "cool" place to be, as Todd stated. breifly, here a few of many specific things I'd like to see that would make downtown cool immediately: 1. A new 6,500 seat minor league baseball stadium nestled into the block bordered by Pearl, Farish, and Pascagoula, with home plate and the grandstand near the corner of Farish and Pascagoula. It would be state of the art, with art-deco architecture. 2. A new 5.500 hockey arena nestled into the block bordered by Roach, Pearl, Pascagoula, and Farish streets - state of the art, art deco architecture. 3. A very good Italian restaurant (attn: Jeff Good) located in the buildings on Roach st. between the Standard Life building and Capitol st. The could share security and possibly valet parking with the Mayflower. This idea came about while talking to other patrons of the Mayflower while waiting outside on the sidewalk on a recent, beautiful evening. Many were waiting and the atmosphere was festive. 3. The area of Capitol st. between Mill. and Farish could be a beautiful area if the storefronts and buildings along there were renovated. I see shops, boutiques. antique shops, clubs, bars, cafes, (way to go Seven), with apartments on the upper floors, condiminiums, etc. If the King Edward lives, and God I hope it does, along with the renovated Union station that could be a great area. The two stadium ideas. both situated across from the telecom center and the proposed convention center site, would feed the young professionals talked about in the article downtown and on down the the west end of east capitol. How about 2000 young folks gettin' down on the King Edward roof? That's all for now - I've got many more. But, I would really love to here other specific ideas for all over downtown that others may have. Post them here please.

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-19T00:38:30-06:00
ID
77073
Comment

Hey, DW, this is a great idea. Everyone should post their dream list for what Downtown needs. I can tell you the top of my list: a festive, loud Caribbean restaurant with great music, great food (including vegetarian) prepared by someone like Chef Godfrey, and delicious tropical drinks like fresh-fruit rum punch. I remember a place in NY's West Village called "Day-O," I think, that was awash in bright colors, fun people and a great atmosphere. You just know people would congregate there from all over Jackson and outside the city. Hint, big hint, someone.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-19T00:48:16-06:00
ID
77074
Comment

Build it, they will come. A really good reggae/blues/jazz joint was on my list too. I like your idea better. Where do you see it located? Also, with the dock and the other joint closing in the not too distant future to make room for the new development at Main Harbor, perhaps the Deweese family? What about getting the downtown area classified as a resort status, like the reservoir area is now? Would that help?...or is it even possible?

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-19T01:25:03-06:00
ID
77075
Comment

I'd like to see my Caribbean restaurant/bar right on Capitol Street, but I'm not sure where specifically. I love the strip down by Seven -- and you're right that Ezra has opened a very cool place there. I can so see that area near the new depot really taking off. And it has easy access from every region of the city. I'd also like to see a good tapas place open downtown, complete with kick-butt sangria like Kathleen and Luis make over at Bruno's. They've created an artsy, urban environment over there that could translate well downtown, especially with a lively after-work crowd. Of course, the Caribbean place could offer jazz, reggae and blues as performance. Don't you just know this would be an incredibly hot spot? Someone else will have to answer your resort status question. Matthew? Todd?

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-19T12:39:21-06:00
ID
77076
Comment

Of course, the Caribbean spot could be on Farish. And speaking of Farish, someone should approach the man who owns that amazing African-American art gallery on Beale Street in Memphis about opening one here. (He is, sadly, one of I think three black-owned businesses on Beale; hopefully, Jackson won't make that same mistake.) And we need some good non-alcoholic spots for young people to hang out; Seven doesn't serve alcohol and draws some young people. Something like the old Living Room/Blackwater Cafe but with better organization would be great. We could copy the old Hoka in Oxford, complete with a little theater room for indie films (maybe Ed Inman could provide that part!) and some good used-book racks. This is fun ...

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-19T12:48:07-06:00
ID
77077
Comment

Top five for downtown -- just an opinion 1. Parking structures with first floor retail/office replacing surface parking 2. Return as many streets to 2 way traffic as possible -- Capitol, Amite for sure and all the cross streets 3. Some "urban" type form for One Jackson Place -- building built to the street or, if it is left open, designed/built in an urban open space. 4. Downtown development that is west of the RR tracks as well. "The other side of the tracks" connotation is not healthy for downtown or the city. 5. I'll try to think of a fifth later.

Author
mdalbey
Date
2003-07-19T13:02:51-06:00
ID
77078
Comment

I'd like to see the green area at One Jackson Place developed too. I belive the original plan was for another building similar to the one there to be placed on the site somehow. I doubt it will ever be built, and as a matter of fact, I hope it isn't. I'd like to see the area developed as a huge plaza with some type of paving, not sure what type, something European-like, with gardens, landscaping, art, sculpture, sidewalk cafes, and so on. And most important, a huge, gigantic fountain. Of course, the main stage area for Jubilee Jam would have to be reconfigured somehow, but it could be done. West of the tracks needs developement too. I see Malaco records moving in that area, and other recording companies. I see the big 2 or 3 story white brick building west of the tracks on Pearl?, being restored, remodeled, renovated much like the Fondren Corner buildings. The possibilities or endless. Here's what a visitor to our city a few years ago thought: http://www.degeneratepress.com/travel/jackson.htm

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-19T19:25:49-06:00
ID
77079
Comment

the story in the link in my previous post contains a link to one of your competitors. I did not realize this until now. Please delete that post and accept my apology.

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-19T23:43:36-06:00
ID
77080
Comment

Oh, don't worry about that; they're a different kind of publicationóthe JFP is the only AAN-style newspaper in Mississippi. Besides, I link to other Mississippi publications all the time; this is a blog, after all. I've seen that write-up you posted; it is interesting. Thanks for posting it, DW.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-20T00:16:23-06:00
ID
77081
Comment

thanks Dianne. While I also found the entire article fascinating, the last sentence particulaly struck me. Why do we throw away our older areas, to build new ones further out? I know land is plentiful here, but geesh, enough is enough. Instead of radiating farther and farther out, let's head back toward the center. improving, augmenting, and redeveloping what we already have. We need somehow to develope a sense of community among the entire 430,000 of us living in the Jackson metro area. How do we do it?

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-20T01:57:44-06:00
ID
77082
Comment

Donna - I think a tapas joint would definitely work downtown. In the old Living Room, kinda like Meritage in Charleston and Columbia. Mayor Johnson and Downtown Partners should implement a program where the city buys abandoned, empty, even derelict property in the downtown area and then leases it for pennies on the dollar for a set amount of time. One would come up with a sound business plan, present it to this "board" for approval, and then have access to, say, a prime spot on Capitol for next to nothing for 5 years. Freeing up money for merchandise, booze, food, whatever is being offered. Renovate the upper floors and rent em out as lofts. The city takes a chance, opens the market to a group of entrepreneurs who might not have access to wads of cash, and in five years has grown back a chunk of its tax base. Oh, and we would have a bustling downtown area after 5pm... I also think it's INSANE that there is no newsstand anywhere downtown. That's what I want to open.

Author
JLosset
Date
2003-07-21T17:06:59-06:00
ID
77083
Comment

You are so right, Jay. We definitely need a good newsstand. I hate chain bookstores, and that's about the only place to get a variety of good papers and magazines, right? (Although Rainbow's got a kick-butt progressive/healthy magazine rack going.) Excellent idea.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-21T19:32:50-06:00
ID
77084
Comment

Here's my wish list: - Resort status for downtown (or whatever is necessary to relax liqour restrictions). One of the limitations for small "third places" is the state law that an establishment have a kitchen in order to sell liquor and wine. - I like the One Jackson Place plaza ideas. I humbly suggest that it include some civil rights statues and/or exhibits, particularly considering it's the location of the Woolworth's sit-in (if I've got my facts right.) I think that embracing Jackson's civil rights history in downtown would help to heal the city and would be a focal point for tourism. - The suggestion for the city to buy property and rent it cheap is dead on. I'd love to see that, particularly for some of the down and out properties in some of the prime walking areas. An improved Capital street would make for a more walkable district. - And what *I* want to see open almost more than anything else is a "micro-theater." This would be a space that's available for art films, small (two-people, one-act) plays and presentations, comedy, acoustic music -- combine that with coffee and drinks and (maybe a used bookstore and some other tidbits) and I think you'd have a winner.

Author
todd
Date
2003-07-22T18:26:03-06:00
ID
77085
Comment

Of course, I agree with my hunny -- uh oh, I'm talking like Jill Conner Browne! -- about the Civil Rights exhibits. That park in Birmingham comes to mind, near the 16th Street church. Anyone know the name of it? And I don't mean those huge box "memorial" buildings that, frankly, look more depressing than anything. I like "living" memorials, like parks, preferably with lots of activity, benches, etc.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-22T18:49:08-06:00
ID
77086
Comment

Certainly, a large scale tribute to the struggle for civil rights would be appropriate in our large scale plaza. A couple of things I'd like to see that could be done now are: Resurfacing some of the rough streets downtown, Lamar between Amite and Hamilton comes to mind. The painting of all street light and traffic light poles the same color green as the ones on Congress and the new ones being installed in the Union Station vacinity. On another note, is it just me or is the Pearl Street "parkway" from I55 to State street looking really good these days with the maturing Oaks and other trees along through there? We need a huge scale abstract, simple, piece of sculpture somewhere in the large median between incoming and outgoing traffic on that stretch parallel to the fairgrounds to really set if off. Something similar to the old dinosaur sculpture that used to be out at the airport, now at the Planetarium. Keep'm coming folks, this is fun.

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-23T00:58:27-06:00
ID
77087
Comment

Just thought of something: I really want to see a place in or near downtown with a GREAT jukebox, the kind of place where you can dance in the aisles (illegally, of course) when a song you can't resist comes on. You know, a box with Ella Fitzgerald, old punk, Sugar Hill gang, Smokey Robinson, Stray Cats, the Ramones and David Allen Coe and, say, Questions in Dialect, all on one box. There are some great boxes like that in New York, Denver and other cities. Anybody know of one here?

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-23T11:15:05-06:00
ID
77088
Comment

Oh, and I'd be remiss to my sweetheart-the-crooner if I didn't mention a great smattering of the best Frank-Dean-Sammy-Tony standards, so he could start singing at will. ;-)

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-23T11:16:05-06:00
ID
77089
Comment

BTW, how great of a street is Commerce Street? Its form -- buildings, relationship of the buildings to the street, the rail line, its scale -- make it one of the funkiest streets around. I know it's not in the middle of downtown, but it's a great street that could be quite a magnet for many people -- living, working, eating, walking, etc..... My son, for instance, loves to gaze at the rail cars that are intermitently parked on the line.

Author
matthew dalbey
Date
2003-07-23T15:01:49-06:00
ID
77090
Comment

Right on, guys!! I wish everyone in Jackson had your kind of vision. I've personally always believed that what Jackson needs is the right mix of residential and retail property, just as you've pointed out, not clique-y gated communities 5 miles from the handy-dandy concrete strip mall. I think the key to building strong, creative, cultural communities within a city is to offer a mix of everything within a few blocks of home. I love living in Belhaven Heights because I can enjoy a neighborhood bar, local grocery, close drugstores, and nearby restaurants--all virtually within walking distance of home. But an additional comment I must make is that metro Jacksonians must also support these businesses, whether they live in the neighborhoods or not. I love my Belhaven businesses, but I shop in Fondren too. Jackson folks have GOT to stop being so apathetic about everything, from our music scene to our retail offerings. "Build it and they will come" applies to some folks, but for the rest, they HAVE to get off the couch and stop waiting for everything to be delivered to them via remote control. C'mon, people! JFP will tell you if it's cool; all you have to do is show up, give Jackson half a chance, and realize you CAN make a difference.

Author
dawnieb
Date
2003-07-23T17:12:04-06:00
ID
77091
Comment

Funky Commerce St. begs development!

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-24T00:51:34-06:00
ID
77092
Comment

Talked to a young girl (upcoming high school senior) working the summer at our office the other day. She said she loved the old town area of Ridgeland. I agreed that it is nice, but, I told her it was a very small area. There are hundreds of blocks in Jackson as nice or nicer. She replied that she NEVER goes to Jackson, that she's too scared. She's a 17 yr. old lifelong resident of the Jackson Metropolitan area and never goes to the reason for the Metropolitan area. That's what we're up against, folks. Of course, before the summer's over I intend to take her and others in the office to lunch in Jacktown, and give a brief tour. But, is that not astonishing? She, and her peers, will go all over Memphis or New Orleans, but are scared to go into Jackson. Granted, the other two cities have a huge carrot at the end of the stick. And that's what we need to work on. Downtown Jacktown needs to be the 'carrot' and packed on Friday and Sairdy nights with young (and older) central Mississippians, and a few from our neighboring states thrown in for good measure. It can happen.

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-24T01:37:37-06:00
ID
77093
Comment

Indeed, DW, mindshare is a challenge. But I sense the winds are changing; hang in there. And, yes, Matthew I LOVE Congress Street. It needs pretty much nothing done to it as far as I can tell. I wish there was an empty there, though, for the JFP!

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-24T01:43:33-06:00
ID
77094
Comment

Thanks for the comments on my review of Jackson from a couple of years ago (hhttp://www.degeneratepress.com/travel/jackson.htm) We swung through Jackson again in December 2001 and had this to say about it: The slow crawl pre-holiday traffic outside of Atlanta and Birmingham, then out into the nothing of central 'bama and Mississippi to Jackson. Stopped for a night, grabbed a bite at Hal's & Mal's for fried pickles and beer where Righteous Buddha was playing jazzy stuff with a moog organ leading the jam session. Across the parking lot to Martin's where a few bucks cover got us two bands. "We're The fuckin' New fuckin' You!" the lead singer blurted out before whipping into music vaguely reminiscent of Sonic Youth but on a cocaine binge double espresso poured into two guitarists suffering from random, violent bouts of epilepsy - could've been great if they could've only held on to their guitars as they thrashed about, or if they could have kept up the momentum instead of stopping between every song to replace broken straps, strings, mike stands, all destroyed by the chaos they created on stage and out into the crowd, onto the backs of booths and slipping across table tops, back onto the stage and up onto the drum kit for another string-busting windmill leap back to the stage. Somehow the crowd has managed to time travel here from 1984. Freakish. The ambisexual hair, Adiddas jackets, K-mart shirts, a tie with a leather jacket - creepy. Exactly like a bar that would've been my high school hangout if we'd had such a place. Only difference is the geekiness here is intentional, cool and comfortable instead of accidental, hopelessly uncool and uncomfortable. Next up on stage The Cash County Survivors doing a fun mix of surf and low-key versions of Judas Priest. Interesting, but we slipped into the back room for more retro-people watching. Everywhere an 80's celeb look-alike. A Henry Rollins from his Black Flag days, Robert Downey Jr. from Less Than Zero, Jim Ignatowsky from Taxi, the lead singer of Spandau Ballet - where are we? WHEN are we?? Up in a haze, breakfast at Frank's World Famous Biscuits. Good eggs, good bacon, damn fine biscuits. Frank himself, a jovial smile, checked on us personally, twice. http://www.degeneratepress.com/travel/texas2001.html

Author
Frederick
Date
2003-07-24T13:40:31-06:00
ID
77095
Comment

Frederick.... One key word that I noticed in your Jackson writeup was "potential." This is something that I think Jackson has plenty of, yet so many of the metro area residents don't see it or don't even seem to want to believe it. It seems like the biggest hurdle is changing the perception of the people that actually live here. If they won't support the actual city of Jackson, then it'll be next to impossible to change. As it was posted above, some folks who live in the "fancy" suburbs love where they are and take every chance they get to rip on Jacktown. It's ridiculous. A lot of folks don't like Harvey Johnson, the current mayor, but there have been a lot of significant projects started up during his reign. Farish Street (downtown) is in the middle of a renovation to make it more of an entertainment district. The Jackson Metro Parkway is going to be cleaning up a lot of the shotgun areas, like the one that you pictured. And there are several other major projects that are either underway or will be shortly. Even as dilapidated as downtown Jackson has been, I love nothing better than just getting out of the house and driving around all over the city, downtown especially. I wish I was in a position to actually build or improve something, but I guess the best that I can do is just support what Jackson is becoming. And I believe that we're going to in for a pleasant surprise.

Author
John
Date
2003-07-24T23:18:32-06:00
ID
77096
Comment

Donna (I got it right this time), don't worry, I'm hanging in with a tight grip. Like John, I wish I had the money and power to strike out on my own renovating downtown Jackson. But, I don't so I will do what I can. Did you mean Commerce Street in your response to Mathew instead of Congress? Commerce is the street running at an odd angle between Jefferson and State that Hal and Mals is located on. There is lots that needs to be done there, but man, what potential, some great old warehouses and old timey vacant car dealerships that could really be renovated for life in the new millineum. Just think what a good Landscape architect could do with the median/train track down the middle of that street. Congress St. is great, and I agree, little needs to be done there. I would like to see some type of quaint cafe, or something located and accessed down the narrow alley that leads to the rear of the buildings on Congress in the area between the Plaza building and the old Emporium. Something simliar, say, to the Rendezvous in Memphis? By the way, everybody click on the link to the Vamps in Fredericks first write up linked above, and if you got a good sound system hooked up to your computer, listen to some samples of great jazz/blues, old time Jackson rock and roll.

Author
dw
Date
2003-07-25T00:41:19-06:00
ID
77097
Comment

DW, you're right, I was confused. Todd pointed out tonight that I'd apparently thought y'all were talking about Congress, which is of course near perfect. And you're right about Commerce, though: there's is enormous potential there, which the White Brothers get full credit for seeing a long time ago. We were just over at Hal & Mal's and looking at that strip before we went in. I agree with John: something is definitely in the air in this city and especially downtown. The pendulum is swinging toward downtown living. I think we're going to wake up one day and, say, whoa, where did all this come from? There are too many people here, including some who might not even realize it, yet, who will really appreciate a true urban experience. And I'm hearing more and more people clamoring about what they want in town everyday. I think the Fondren renaissance has really shown people what's possible; now they're hungrier than ever. Why should we have to go to Memphis or New Orleans to visit a real city? All we have to do is get together and build one by supporting businesses in the city, and then talking up how great a real city is to live and work in. If we do that enough, it will happen. I promise. Cheers, all.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-25T00:57:54-06:00
ID
77098
Comment

Reading back, I have one question for John: Can a parkway really "clean up" areas? Allow my bleeding heart to show here: the people who live in those "shotgun" neighborhoods have to have a place to live, too. One of my biggest concerns about rejuvenation, as much as I want to see it, is that people don't get pushed out into a worse situation and gentrified out of their homes. And that residents in "renaissance" neighborhoods don't get the NIMBY (not in my back yard) bug about services, lower-income housing, etc., in their neighborhoods. We need a real balancing act here, and I don't want my desire for hip Caribbean restaurants to blind me to those problems. Of course, displacement is not a problem on Capitol Street, but when you start talking about Farish and West Side neighborhoods, it sure can be. OK, time to get off my computer for a while. I'm cross-eyed after days of burning the midnight oil coding and uploading political questionnaires! See y'all in a day or two.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-25T20:00:12-06:00
ID
77099
Comment

Downtown is happening, y'all! At least on its surface, this sounds like incredible news. Cheers to the folks working so hard to making downtown living a reality. Let's the rest of us keep clamoring for a vibrant downtown; this move proves that the people who are making it happen are listening to us. And they need us to make the noise to justifying making it happen. Now, about that Caribbean restaurant ... ;-D http://www.clarionledger.com/news/0308/02/m03.html

Author
ladd
Date
2003-08-02T14:05:30-06:00
ID
77100
Comment

Indeed, this is great news! The tide is turning. Ted Duckworth, whom I'd never heard of, is now my new hero. Someone with vision, and, actually doing something. Thank you sir. As stated before, I believe the downtown area should be granted 'resort' status, and become an full fledged entertainment district. I'm not a gambler by any means. But, occasionally. my wife and I enjoy dropping twenty bucks or so, in the slots at one of the casinos on the coast or over in Vicksburg. I would like to see at least one casino, possibly two, in downtown Jackson - not on barges but right downtown on dry land. I'm not advocating jackson become a gaming mecca like the coast or the Miss. River areas, but one or two small casinos downtown would create a, what's the word - synergy? - like nothing else could. Any thoughts?

Author
dw
Date
2003-08-05T00:36:15-06:00
ID
77101
Comment

They're looking for a home for the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame. My suggestion: The defunct church in the gorgeous building at the corner of High and State that 1st Baptist has previously proposed to tear down and put up a parking lot.

Author
dw
Date
2003-08-09T00:40:40-06:00
ID
77102
Comment

I think they still plan to tear it down, don't they? It's shameful. I agree with you: that building needs to be saved; it certainly does not need to be a parking lot helping create an eyesore along that stretch that no one wants to visit except on Sunday a.m. Anyone know where this stands? We need to look into it.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-08-09T12:25:34-06:00
ID
77103
Comment

Here's a link someone sent about faux-lofts being built in Houston. There's a warning in here about what NOT to do: tear down lovely old buildings to put up fake "lofts." The point of a loft is that is supposed to be in an old renovated warehouse. If not, make cool apartments (not "lofts") in an old renovated building. Recycle what's there. Don't try to imitate by tearing down. That's silly, nouveau riche, and stupid (and rather suburban). It's certainly not cool. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/09/business/09LOFT.html?hp

Author
ladd
Date
2003-08-09T12:35:24-06:00
ID
77104
Comment

The Mississippi Music Hall of Fame needs to be on Farish. It's logical. A big museum/performance center/bar/restaurant space. On the subject of the old First Christian Church, though, from what I read in the C-L many months ago, the First Baptists want to turn the space into a park-type spot. They were intending to remove the building and leave the belltower and make it a landscaped green space for weddings and such. I am not a member of either congregation. I don't think FB needs any more parking. I don't want to see the FCC building torn down. But I also didn't want to see it shuttered. Which to me is the big question no one's asking: Why did the First Christian Church congregation decide to leave downtown? They had, arguably, one of the greatest church structures in the city. And they merged with the folks in Madison and now everyone meets under one roof up there. Again, I don't attend either church, so I don't know about their respective needs for new wedding gardens OR suburban worship. I am just glad that the FB's haven't pulled out and left their facilities empty. Anyway, let's push for a huge, independent, House of Blues - type facility in the middle of Farish that can house the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame.

Author
JLosset
Date
2003-08-11T00:24:54-06:00
ID
77105
Comment

Seems some local (not global) business owners want people to actually see the exhibits. ""People flying into the Jackson airport now have the opportunity to see the contributions Mississippians have made to popular music," said Drake Elder, co-owner of Be-Bop Records. "It beats having a museum which people may have to make a side trip to," Elder added. " Airport to host Music Hall of Fame

Author
Reader
Date
2003-08-11T11:01:17-06:00
ID
77106
Comment

A "side trip" into the city? That's a funny way to think of going to an important museum downtown. Good it has a home, of sorts, though. Maybe there's a more interesting home in its future--like Farish when it hits it stride. And it will. That's so sad that Shirley Dixon passed away. :-(

Author
ladd
Date
2003-08-11T12:25:55-06:00
ID
77107
Comment

Ladd...I see your point about a parkway running residents of the area off, but don't they get SOME kind of help from the city to relocate? I thought that's how it worked. BUT, there have been several articles about how businesses on High Street and the Metro Parkway have struggled mightily while the areas are being redone. I guess it has its pluses and minuses, but in the end it adds a lot to the city. I'm excited about the Electric Building being renovated. That's a darn good first step. I also think that Jackson should have a "House of Blues" type place. I'd also love for the Subway Lounge to move to Farish Street if the hotel that it's in can't be salvaged. I know that the Subway has so much history where it is, but it'd be better than losing it altogether. And it would probably get a LOT more business in a "safer" area.

Author
John
Date
2003-08-13T00:10:10-06:00
ID
77108
Comment

I still would like to see more fountains and artwork throughout downtown Jackson. Commission the arts departments of all local Colleges and Universities to do the art. Use the 5th year architectural community as much as possible. Beautification is the key. This is not the end, it's a new beginning. I'd like to see a designated Saturday of every month from, say, March or April through December, as an open air market day on Capitol Street. Arts, crafts, foodstuffs, music, street performers, etc. - a cross between the Canton Flea market and the Belhaven market (which I still very much support). That this commmunity loves a Saturday morning garage sale is an understatement. Let's turn that into downtown positive. Encourage all garage sellers to load up their junk, all their crap, bring it down to Capitol street that morning, and have a giant open flea market. This metro area needs a sense of community in the worst way. It is my vision that downtown Jackson, can somehow become the center, to some extent, of the entire community again.

Author
dw
Date
2003-09-02T01:04:22-06:00
ID
77109
Comment

Those are great ideas, DW ó and thanks for bringing this blog back to the top regularly. We love to talk about Downtown's potential. Todd and I were driving around downtown this afternoon after our usual Tuesday-after-press-day veggie lunch at Two Sisters (we're scoping new office space). I was looking at the catfish, which are pretty cool, and wishing that we had even more original public art, and perhaps a little less themed (not dissing it, mind you). In fact, the JFP is planning a public art project of sorts, but I can't spill the beans, yet. Now, I think there are plans for some sort of downtown market, but to be honest I'm still fried from sending this issue to the printer so I can't remember the details. Maybe someone else will chime in about it. I really like your idea about getting the architect students involved. We were in Starkville last weekend, and when we dropped papers at the Architect school (my favorite building there), I thought of my two State roommates who were architectural students. To that point, they were probably two of the most creative people I'd met. And they helped instigate all sorts of creative events including the annual Beaux Arts Ball (I wonder if they still have it). Anyway, I'm on a sleepy tangent, but I agree with you. Keep the ideas percolating!

Author
ladd
Date
2003-09-02T20:20:54-06:00
ID
77110
Comment

can we get an update on what exactly is going on downtown?

Author
april
Date
2004-03-08T18:31:48-06:00
ID
77111
Comment

Hey April, we're not purposefully ignoring, but a lot of the people who can answer your questions have been slammed getting out a big, special issue of the JFP, which is now at the printer. *Much* is going on downtown, both out in the open and behind the scenes. For one, have you seen how Farish looks with the new streets? I think the naysayers are going to be surprised when this thing hits, and everybody who believes in the future of Jackson is working to make it happen. The power of positive thinking is expotential. I'll let Todd, if he desires, list out more of the recents DT developments when he gets a chance (I'm beat, and it's more his area of expertise than mine). The main thing I'll tell you is to please go support any and every business downtown. More than anything, that's what's going to make it happen. Take Saturday night: the art museum was packed; there was an event at Thalia Mara, the Friendship Ball and a big music show were happening at Hal & Mal's/Soulshine, 105 Capitol was packed with young club kids. There were people everywhere. And that's the way it ought to be. Just wait until Farish hits. Anyway, I ramble. Thanks for posting.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-03-09T18:26:03-06:00
ID
77112
Comment

Almost a year ago I posted about the potential of the some of the vacant car dealerships downtown, with fronts on South State and backs on Commerce St. Well, I notice George Bell has purchased and refurbished one old dealership for a portion of there rug business, and I recently got wind that someone is seriously looking at another one to open up a 'swanky' bar and grill. Anybody know anything about that? A few years ago on the old Bandits message board, I posted about how I'd like to see a Harley dealership take one of those old car dealerships and open up a huge Harley cycle store and the world's biggest biker bar. I'd still like to see that, and it doesn't necessarily have to be Harley. I'm not a biker myself, but there is a huge market out there for biker rallys - huge potential. I'd like to see downtown Jacktown hotels, bars, clubs, and restaurants push for some type annual biker ralley downtown. Although it's a government funded facility, it is particularly nice to see steel going up for the new Telecom building. It's great to see activity in that area of downtown. By jove, folks, it's happening before our very eyes. Downtown's on the verge. I saw on John Lawrence's site that Seven* would reopen soon at another location downtown. Anybody know where? Clubs and joints are opening all over. Now we need some pads and lofts going in some of those vacated buildings. Looks like Duece's interested too, what with the announcement that he was looking at purchasing the Tower Building (Standard Life). Anybody with any pull, don't let this man get away. Yeah, I'm pumped again about downtown. Since y'all went weekly, y'all stay too tired to talk about building up downtown. That's allright. I'll be back soon with some ideas for the Poindexter area. Yep, Poindexter, West Capitol out to the zoo gotta get ramped up too.

Author
dw
Date
2004-06-04T01:04:53-06:00
ID
77113
Comment

dw, I agree about the Poindexter area west of downtown. The housing could be amazing with some restoration... The bones are still good in many of those houses. Not to mention it's much closer to the CBD than many of the booming neighborhoods on the skirts of downtown.

Author
kaust
Date
2004-06-04T01:15:08-06:00
ID
77114
Comment

Yeah, I'm pumped again about downtown. Since y'all went weekly, y'all stay too tired to talk about building up downtown. That's allright. I'll be back soon with some ideas for the Poindexter area. Yep, Poindexter, West Capitol out to the zoo gotta get ramped up too. A bit guilty as charged, dw. Speaking for myself, I just don't have as much time to blog, and that always affects how many comments we get, even though the visits steadily grow, regardless of chatter. (My presence shouldn't matter, y'all! Blog on. And, DW, where you been, huh? ) But, rest assured that we're not done pushing for downtown renovation. We have a variety of stories scheduled in the following months, and will continue doing everything we can to promote downtown out of the pages of the newspaperówhich we do even when we're too tired to blog. ;-) We continually sponsor events in downtown venues--and have a large promotion planned for Jubilee! JAM. Also, one very exciting development is The Collective's efforts -- they're having GREAT events downtown, including the arts afternoon in Smith Park recently. So, don't worry, we're all in the game. Now about Poindexter: I could not agree more that that neighborhood has the potential to be something else: creative, diverse, a great view of the city, walkable, right between downtown and JSU. I really want a big house up there at some point.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-06-04T12:51:18-06:00

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