The King Gets Another Reprieve | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The King Gets Another Reprieve

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In the nick of time, the Mississippi Senate approved an amendment this week that would provide a $2 million interest-free loan to the Jackson Redevelopment Authority to fund environmental cleanup and handle other preliminary costs associated with the redevelopment of the King Edward Hotel. The move came after the current developers of the King Edward Hotel learned that the city's application for its elusive $2 million BEDI environmental grant—needed to move the project forward—had once again hit a snag.

Hal Fairbanks, director of acquisitions at HRI, said Monday that the city lost its $2 million BEDI environmental grant due to another missed deadline.

"I was looking on the HUD Web site today to see if there was information about what had been awarded and what happened. Maybe I didn't navigate so well, but I couldn't find their announcement of funding, but hopefully the city has the inside track and knows what the deal is," Fairbanks said.

According to HRI, the HUD loan was stymied by "some kind of technicality" related to the submission of the 108-loan request. The city is required to submit an application for a 108 loan in order to apply for a BEDI grant.

"My understanding is that they submitted the BEDI in a timely manner, but you're supposed to submit the 108 within 30 days of that to have a companion 108 submitted with your BEDI grant so you've got a leverage of funds that you will have to repay. Apparently, somehow, the city missed a deadline on filing that companion 108," Fairbanks said. "The deadline may have been extended because of hurricane damage, but I don't know what happened. That was kind of in the city's court, so we hadn't monitored it as closely."

A Senate amendment to House Bill 1495 strikes some language in the original bill and replaces it with an order authorizing the Mississippi Development Authority to provide interest-free loans to the JRA for use in environmental remediation, engineering and architectural services, and selective demolition for the hotel's re-development.

After decades as the center for Jackson nightlife, the hotel became a derelict eyesore in the downtown area when it shut down in the late 1960s due to low patronage. Countless redevelopment attempts fizzled for the last decade until attorney David Watkins joined with New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister and HRI Inc. of New Orleans to turn the building into a multi-story container for condominiums, hotel rooms and street-level department stores and restaurants.

The Jackson Free Press reported in November that the city had narrowly missed the HUD application deadline, but was saved by a HUD deadline extension due to massive storm damage in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Watkins said in November: "I honestly don't know how much longer we have (to submit the application). I've been advised by (city planning and development consultant) Jimmy Heidel that the timing is not a problem. I think at this point we've been waiting on the city, and hopefully it's going to come to its natural end in the next 45 days."

Heidel told the JFP more recently that the city lost the money because of steep national competition for HUD grants rather than missed deadlines.

"That grant was subject to national competition, and we didn't make it in this round of funding," Heidel said, admitting that the city did hit a snag during the application process. "We got in touch with HUD last year, and they said there were some discrepancies in our submission. I think the biggest thing was HUD wanted to make sure we weren't considering putting any of the 108 loan into the apartments or condo or whatever. It was strictly supposed to be going into the hotel."

When new Mayor Frank Melton hit the scene in 2005, he came off as lukewarm to the possibility of renovation, declaring frankly that he preferred demolition over the added costs of renovation.

"(The developers') dreams are wonderful, but the reality, I'm not so sure about," Melton told The Clarion-Ledger last year. "… I'm still looking into having it destroyed. I have no option if something doesn't happen down there."

However, a March 17 letter from Frank Melton to House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, suggests a turnaround. The letter expressed the mayor's full support for the passage of the amendment to House Bill 1495, even adding that his office had been hard at work at renovating the building, despite his numerous past calls for its "implosion."

"My office and the city council have been working tirelessly to make the redevelopment of the King Edward a reality, and we believe that this measure will be the jump-start needed to make this happen," Melton wrote in the letter.

An endorsement of the bill is not necessarily an endorsement of redevelopment, though. The money appropriated through the amendment also allows for the outright demolition of the hotel, according to the bill language.

Heidel said he was already taking extra steps to assure funding for the preliminary development to make sure that doesn't happen.

"I have several options. We got that bill in the Legislature, but I've upped the 108 loan from $2 million to $4 million as a back-up. If you don't need it you don't have to use it. Also, we're talking to two congressional offices (Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, R-Mississippi,) about making sure we're in better competition for next year," Heidel said.

Ward 1 Councilman Ben Allen said he was grateful for congressional support, but warned that the city couldn't wait for the next round of HUD grants.

"Cochran's office has assured us that we will get it next time, but that will be eight months before that happens, and we can't wait that long," Allen said.

"Look, we don't know why it got rejected, but we just hope this amendment gets through the House. We've already got Gov. Barbour's support on it and some other people. We think it has a chance."

Previous Comments

ID
65685
Comment

HUD denies $2M grant for King Ed "Despite the setback, city officials and private developers said they are optimistic that work will not be delayed a year. They are looking for other forms of funding to contribute to the project, including low-cost loans and a variety of tax breaks. "'We're going to get it (the money)," developer David Watkins said. "I'm confident. Our plan is to be working on the construction of this building before the end of the year.'"

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-03-26T14:53:47-06:00
ID
65686
Comment

Yep, once again, The Ledge followed us on a story. Nothing new there.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-26T15:03:13-06:00
ID
65687
Comment

I had the opportunity to look at the King Edward close up a couple of weeks ago, for the first time in a long time. Initial thoughts: - For all the talk of it being in a bad neighborhood, it's really not that far from the capitol. - It's a damn pretty building. - It's in damn ugly shape. I hope it can be restored. And I hadn't realized how well-located it was--the neighborhood looks run-down right now, with graffiti on the overpass and cracked pavement and litter all over the place. Not a neighborhood I'd want to walk in after dark at the moment. But put a living building there, and I think that whole area could shine again. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-03-26T23:49:15-06:00
ID
65688
Comment

I love how the Clarion-Ledger's editorial today tries to sneak in credit for them reporting this story -- nearly a week after Adam did! Anyway, it's nice to see them catching up. ;-) As reported by The Clarion-Ledger on Sunday, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has denied the city's application for a $2 million grant it had sought. Developers were relying on that money to begin environmental cleanup work that must be done prior to any renovation or demolition. Jimmy Heidel, Jackson's lead economic developer, said the city's application was turned down because of the high level of competition for that type of HUD grant. It also turns out that the application was sent in late. After nearly 40 years of neglect, the old hotel has proved an enduring monument to dashed hopes and failed dreams, and this most recent disappointment could fuel yet again calls for its demolition. But all hope isn't gone. Developers say they believe work can begin - with delays - this summer. There is also a back-up plan. A bill before the Mississippi Senate would allow the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, which owns the hotel, to apply for the loan again next year and then reimburse the state when and if it is awarded. I wonder if they know the "rest of the story," as Paul Harvey might say. My lips are sealed.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-28T12:38:59-06:00
ID
65689
Comment

"I wonder if they know the "rest of the story," as Paul Harvey might say. My lips are sealed." Nice... Anything we'll hear about soon?

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-03-28T14:23:30-06:00
ID
65690
Comment

I know I shouldn't have done that. ;-) The answer: Maybe. I don't know. Someone's going to write a great book someday, I will say that. We do have surprises in store, though, in the short run. Keep an eye out. Tantalized?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-28T14:25:26-06:00
ID
65691
Comment

Indubitably! Tease. ;-)

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-03-28T14:28:42-06:00
ID
65692
Comment

Flutter, flutter. (That's my eyelashes.) Hey, I'm a southern girl.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-28T14:33:32-06:00
ID
65693
Comment

I love this kind of stuff. It's why, amoung many reasons, that I dig this blog. My heart leaps every time I see something about this building. It's almost too important to me. But it holds alot of my early memories in Jackson. My Father and Mother had there Wedding reception there in 1955 at the Patio Club (not that I was there you understand)! My Grandmother had her travel agency in the lobby retail area (Rightway Travel). I was deposited at the pool several times a week when I was a kid. Until 1966 or so anyway. I hope things work out for the old pile of masonry.

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-03-28T14:47:37-06:00
ID
65694
Comment

Well, for me, it's a bit of a metaphor for whether we are divided and tear everything down and start over (or divide it up between black and white) -- or whether we can come together to strengthen what we already have. It's a Solomonic question in a sense. I simply don't believe Jackson's future resides in splitting the baby -- and to me imploding the King Edward if we don't have to symbolizes that.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-28T15:03:50-06:00
ID
65695
Comment

Also, I understand that this thing has big societal issues but "above all" we must see the building in it's potential as "grand" architectural significance. You know alot of people were thrown to the lions in the "Circus Maximus" and many died as pawns in the Coliseum but those buildings are still looked on for their Architectural value and beyond what happend to who and where (though it makes good story). Architecture is what joins us and makes identity. Regardless of the later history, the view and the experience belong to us all now. And as far as "who gets to live there", well I'm afraid it's whoever has the tariff. And who gets to stay in the hotel portion, again....saints and sinners all as long as the credit card clears...it's the same in Atlanta, Jackson, Dallas, and Chicago. I just see the thing in the context of downtown and the imortance it has to the city and the streetscape. That importance belongs to everyone. Sorry about the spelling...

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-03-28T15:31:00-06:00
ID
65696
Comment

Also, I understand that this thing has big societal issues but "above all" we must see the building in it's potential as "grand" architectural significance. I don't think you have to choose. It can have societal and architectural significance. Do it for both reasons; your case is stronger.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-28T15:57:55-06:00
ID
65697
Comment

and I suppose the point of my last historical "rabbit chase" was to say that all buildings have a past. Most older buildings have many aspects of unpleasantness and the salient residue of long dead societal code (real Faulkner like words I thought, I know Ben Allen will be impressed!). But it's about the present with this thing......it will be a new day.

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-03-28T16:00:29-06:00
ID
65698
Comment

BREAKING NEWS HOUSE JUST PASSED 115-5 TO LOAN THE JRA $2M FOR KING EDWARD PROJECT. SEE CHANNEL 3 TONIGHT FOR DETAILS. THE LADY LIVES!

Author
Ben Allen
Date
2006-03-28T22:55:25-06:00
ID
65699
Comment

WOOOOO HOO!! Best news I've heard in a while.

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-03-28T23:02:46-06:00
ID
65700
Comment

ALRIGHT

Author
jada
Date
2006-03-29T00:17:51-06:00
ID
65701
Comment

Who were the five who voted against it, Ben?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-29T13:56:45-06:00
ID
65702
Comment

And how did Rep. Evans vote?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-29T13:59:41-06:00
ID
65703
Comment

This building is obviously very important to the people of Mississippi. I mean, this was overwhelming in favor of the project. This is very impressive. I wish the state would appoint a renovation project czar to over see this project and make sure that the loan goes for what it is intended for, abatement and stabilization. Once that is done there would be alot of people interested in that structure, HRI, and any number of developers in the east. Neatoooo

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-03-29T14:26:07-06:00
ID
65704
Comment

"Who were the five who voted against it, Ben?" I was wondering about that, myself. And why haven't the C-L or any of the local news websites reported this?

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-03-29T14:30:47-06:00
ID
65705
Comment

Geez! I guess I should comb the C-L harder, but I figure that when a story is made as hot of a topic as the King Edward has been the past week that they'd make more of a headline for it. Instead, it was buried here.

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-04-01T19:44:30-06:00
ID
65706
Comment

I had hoped that there would be something about the King Edward in the interview with Mr. Melton. Perhaps this will be in the next installment? I hope he has indeed changed his tune and is no longer touting demolition. As for the CL, I'm disappointed that they haven't said more about the recent funding. As far as I know, the project is set to go forward. This will be a great step forward for downtown Jackson.

Author
tombarnes
Date
2006-04-08T23:24:08-06:00

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