Council Approves Metrocenter Purchase Despite Budget Woes | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Council Approves Metrocenter Purchase Despite Budget Woes

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Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said the purchase of property at Metrocenter mall represents "a pretty good return on investment."

The Jackson City Council voted to purchase property inside the Metrocenter mall today. The city will buy more than 170,000 square feet of space within the mall—formerly occupied by Dillard's department store before it moved out in 2004—for $39,500. Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. approached the council with the possibility of buying the property earlier this month as part of a bigger plan to revitalize the Highway 80 corridor between the city limits of Pearl and Clinton. The area, which contains the Metrocenter Mall, served as a bountiful location for businesses well into the 1980s before white residents vacated to the suburbs.

Johnson said his inspiration for the purchase comes from the apparent success of the King Edward Hotel, which now serves as Jackson's newest Hilton Garden Inn after the city's Jackson Redevelopment Authority bought the property from private owners and transferred the deed to developers in 2007.

"When property falls into public hands, the public entity is able to supply incentives that were not available if the property is privately owned," Johnson told the Jackson Free Press, adding that the city is buying property worth $1.25 million for less than $40,000. "That's a pretty good return on investment."

The city has no specific plans for the property at this time. Johnson said the old anchor-store location could again serve as a major store, or could evolve into something similar in scope to the development of the Jackson Medical Mall, which now houses numerous health-related agencies and restaurants.

Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman, who represents the Metrocenter area, was happy with the purchase, arguing that the Highway 80 corridor was desperately in need of some form of development.

Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill was the lone vote against the purchase, however. Weill generally argues against expanding municipal property ownership, citing concerns over potential tax increases and further burdens upon city coffers.

The purchase comes at a time when the city is seeing a drop in sales-tax revenue, according to Johnson.

"We're in a cautious posture," Johnson said, adding that sales tax revenue was 15 percent below projections in the second quarter of the fiscal year. The city was already facing a 10 percent revenue dip in the first quarter of the fiscal year and recorded a $2 million drop in sales tax revenue last August.

Johnson submitted and the council passed a 2010 budget that retained a 3 percent cut in expenditures initiated by the prior administration, as well as a new 0.2 percent decrease in city spending. The mayor filled any remaining holes with money left unspent by the Melton administration—money that Weill found dubious at the time, considering the monetary shortfalls with which the Melton administration had to contend.

The mayor said the city will change its spending plan to meet the shortfall.

"Obviously, we're going to have to make some adjustments. We haven't gotten the revenue returns yet. They're about two months behind, but caution is the order of the day," Johnson said. "We're going to talk to our department directors about being vigilant about spending patterns. Simply because we budgeted money doesn't mean we can still spend it that way. A budget is just a spending plan, and sometimes you have to alter that plan."

The city will begin whatever adjustments it plans in the first quarter of the year, with Johnson warning that any delay in budgetary adjustments could mean more draconian cuts later in the year.

Previous Comments

ID
154530
Comment

Im sure many of you will disagree but I think this was a very foolish move unless they are prepared to buy up the remaining vacancies. I just don't see how purchasing this building with no plans for it's future was a good investment.

Author
js1976
Date
2009-12-29T14:19:21-06:00
ID
154531
Comment

Note they didn't vote to buy the whole mall; the headline might be a bit misleading.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-29T14:50:36-06:00
ID
154532
Comment

While I understand the intention behind the purchase, I also think this wasn't a smart move by the City at this time given the continued drop in sales tax revenues. HJ comparing the King Ed to this isn't an apples to oranges comparison, given that the downtown locale and historic nature of the King Ed always made it a much more attractive investment for private money despite the challenges. That said, I would prefer to see Metrocenter refocused as something more like a mixed-use town/community center beyond its original retail designation. I think that's the best solution to save the ol' girl.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2009-12-29T15:00:19-06:00
ID
154533
Comment

Jeff I agree with the mixed-use idea. I don't see a promising future for this to be revitalized into a viable shopping center. I hate it though, because I worked as a teenager for several years at the Metro.

Author
js1976
Date
2009-12-29T15:25:09-06:00
ID
154534
Comment

I agree with you Jeff except that I think a retail designation would be a fine focus point. Although a community center wouldn't be a bad idea, I don't think that much space is needed for a community center. I like the idea of it being a mall because I am hopeful that a mall would bring more people back to that side of town. I agree with Tillman, something does need to be done in that area, but it can't be done without a plan of action. This is scary to me because it doesn't seem to make good sense to make a purchase of $39,500 and not have any idea what you'll use the space for. When will that be decided and why didn't the council request that information before endorsing this proposal? I just don't get our city leaders most of the time. Blind leading the blind.

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-29T15:27:41-06:00
ID
154535
Comment

I got it. The new City Hall. Room for all those egos in there! :)

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-12-29T16:00:53-06:00
ID
154536
Comment

Queen, I can see how my use of the term "community center" is misleading. I'm don't mean it like a oversized rec center, but a mixed-use facility that has offices, shopping, restaurants, recreational facilities, and service-oriented stores, (like dry-cleaners), and either a movie theater or auditorium. A place that offers downtown-style services, but focused for the *community* of West Jackson. And it is irritating that the mayor and council can't offer a better plan of action than "if we buy it (and offer a boatload of tax freebies), they will come..."

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2009-12-29T16:11:29-06:00
ID
154537
Comment

the city is buying property worth $1.25 million for less than $40,000. Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If the seller could have sold it for $1.25 million, seems to me they would have. I don't think there was a buyer at that price. The banks that still have all those worthless assets on their balance sheets have some experience with this concept. Of course the mayor is just trying to spin it positively. I don't know that it's necessarily a bad deal because it could certainly become worth more than what the city has paid for it in the future. But that would depend on the plan they come up with for re-developing that area. A plan the area needs desperately, so maybe this purchase will spur action on that. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-12-29T16:18:03-06:00
ID
154541
Comment

I grew up with Jackson Mall being a viable destination and remember it in the semi-heyday. I remember the excitement with which Metrocenter launched. Of course, eventually Northpark appeared and permanently shifted shopping habits. I'm pleased the old JM has been usefully repurposed as the Medical Mall. Can and will something similar happen at Metrocenter? Would I put money on it? Definitely not. I see them as apples and oranges.

Author
carl
Date
2009-12-29T20:07:19-06:00
ID
154542
Comment

$40,000? What?! I'll buy it from them for $45,000!! I'll turn it into my pimp pad!

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2009-12-29T20:50:46-06:00
ID
154544
Comment

There needs to be a retail spot in that area, nothing is there. I know many don't understand this, but everyone isn't comfortable coming to "Fondren" to shop. Hell, not everyone can even get there - the transit system itself is a flake and should be given some attention. Many in our community can't afford to shop in Fondren or at Northpark. Westland Plaza is about as good as it gets, which sends a terrible message to those who live in that area. I am not ready to abandon the idea that the Metrocenter should not be revitalized as exactly what it was. It doesn't need to be another NOrthpark with snooty stores that are unaffordable. It needs to target those who live in that area and can afford to shop there. Jeff, your idea is a good one and it would be of good use, there are several other empty building on that side of town that could serve that purpose. It's not a smart idea to try and do this one store at time though, if that's what the council and mayor are thinking. That first store will never make it off the ground....period.

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-30T09:43:36-06:00
ID
154545
Comment

I think many people understand that, Queen: the problem is that so many people (of all races) are shopping more often in the suburbs than either Fondren, where you and I live, or the Metrocenter area. And, of course, at Walmarts all over the place. This starts with people going there to shop more often. It's not going to be revitalized as retail if people don't show a willingness to go to the area. I don't get the feeling that the Council is planning to put a store in there at all, and I don't see that as a bad thing. I'll reserve further judgment, though, until I know more.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-30T10:15:14-06:00
ID
154549
Comment

Donna, honestly, I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around that whole idea. The problem, as i see it, is not that people are shopping more often in the suburbs. Black people according to your theory must not be shopping at all then. First off, most can not get to Dogwood, Fondren, or Northpark. Secondly if they can get there, they can not afford to spend money there, so why would they come. Thirdly, the stores do not target black consumers. There is no reason to come to a place that's difficult to get to, too expensive to spend in, and then don't have the type of stuff we'd like to purchase. Seems like to me what's happening here is that the city is trying to expand what they've done in Fondren, which is still not going to work in prodominately black areas of town. It simply won't work. I can speak for myself when I say, that I have not been in any shops in Fondren to shop for myself. My style of preference isn't served in Orange Peel or any of the majority of the stores there. That's just being honest with you. I see and hear all the time about my white friends who shop there and can find things with great ease, and love the stuff they have. For me, not so much. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Point is, it seems to me that yet again black people are being disassociated with the renovation taking place in the Metro and even downtown to some level. I spoke with a coworker just the other day who is none to pleased about what's happening downtown. Why? Because the regular idea is that "we can't afford to live in those lofts. they say it's reasonable but who are they judging those prices on - who's salaries?" That's a serious issue. Now, I know better. I know that lunch at the King Edward costs about as much as any other restuarant. But how will the black community be assured of that if they are not enthused about coming down there in the first place. You can say it's their issue, they just need to come see. But that would just be a simple solution that will not rectify the common attitude shared by many non-white, life-long Jacksonians around here. (I know I rambled a bit, but I hope you get my drift - somewhat. As i am working this out in my head as I type, so good luck)

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-30T10:39:31-06:00
ID
154550
Comment

I see your point, Queen, but there are plenty of people of color shopping in the suburbs, including in the Walmarts out there. I don't necessarily mean just upscale places in the suburbs. One of the tragedies we have, of course, is the dearth of affordable local shops for anyone, especially in non-North Jackson parts of the city. No question. But when they show up, people need to shop in them so they'll survive. It's a constant conundrum. And just because they build them, people will not necessarily come. And no one's going to build them if they don't think people will come. So it's all very complicated, which you're expressing. A lot of it is perception, no question. For instance, at Orange Peel, I've seen a whole bunch of jewelry there that would look great on you and costs very little! You should try it sometime. ;-) I also hope you've shopped at the bead store in the same block. It's black-owned; I got a handful of earrings there for little gifts for $3 a pair. And of course there's Courtney's Mosaic, which we featured in our Kwanzaa gift guide. Spread the word! And this isn't even addressing the many well-to-do African Americans and whites and other who could shop more at Metrocenter (or Fondren, for that matter) if they would. We're not only talking about people who can't afford to go other places. I disagree with you on one point: I've seen no evidence that the city is trying to turn Metrocenter into a "Fondren." As for affording to live downtown: If you lived and worked downtown, you wouldn't necessarily need a car! That's one of the ways that many people afford to live in places like NYC and San Francisco; they break the chain of the car culture, and save a lot of money to boot (and stay in shape). And in a loft, there isn't yard upkeep and the like. Not everyone would want it, but my understanding is that there are (relatively) affordable units available downtown. I hope people of all races will at least go take a look if they think they're interested. And I'm sure you and the man-investor do, too. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-30T10:50:03-06:00
ID
154551
Comment

Oh, and thank goodness for the McDades going into Westland Plaza! Now, other local business owners should follow suit.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-30T10:53:20-06:00
ID
154552
Comment

Queen, the city didn't choose the types of products or prices to charge in the Fondren area. This was decided by the locals and investors in that area. The same is happening in the downtown area. Those that are willing to invest in an area determine what is to be sold and how much to charge for it. That's whats confusing about this purchase at Metro. What are they ever going to do with this location?

Author
js1976
Date
2009-12-30T10:57:29-06:00
ID
154553
Comment

But when they show up, people need to shop in them so they'll survive. NOT GOING TO SHOW UP IF THE PLACE DOESN'T OFFER WHAT I WANT TO PURCHASE AND IS TOO COSTLY FOR ME TO SPEND IN; OR, IF PEOPLE DONT KNOW ABOUT IT. For instance, at Orange Peel, I've seen a whole bunch of jewelry there that would look great on you and costs very little! You should try it sometime. ;-) I also hope you've shopped at the bead store in the same block. It's black-owned; I got a handful of earrings there for little gifts for $3 a pair. And of course there's Courtney's Mosaic, which we featured in our Kwanzaa gift guide. Spread the word! I WILL DEFINETELY CHECK OUT THESE SPOTS DONNA. MAYBE I'M GUILTY OF JUST NOT TAKING THE TIME AND MAKING THE EFFORT TO CHECK IN THESE STORES MORE FREQUENTLY. As for affording to live downtown: If you lived and worked downtown, you wouldn't necessarily need a car! COMMO NOW DONNA, YOU SOUND LIKE IT'S YOUR OPINION THAT IT'S QUICK AND EASY TO GET A JOB DOWNTOWN. THIS IS OPENING UP A WHOLE NEW CAN OF WORMS THAT I WOULDN"T EVEN WANT TO PUT IN WRITING AT THIS POINT. BUT IT'S SIMPLY NOT AS EASY AS SAYING, OH I THINK I"LL GET A JOB DOWNTOWN SO I CAN LIVE DOWNTOWN - UNLESS YOU'RE A LAWYER. A PROFESSION THAT ISN"T AS POPULAR IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY AS YOU THINK. (my caps are not to indicate screaming, just to differentiate your comments from mine - I dont know how yall do that)

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-30T11:03:33-06:00
ID
154554
Comment

NOT GOING TO SHOW UP IF THE PLACE DOESN'T OFFER WHAT I WANT TO PURCHASE AND IS TOO COSTLY FOR ME TO SPEND IN; OR, IF PEOPLE DONT KNOW ABOUT IT. I know; thus the catch-22. It's a business, so merchants need to know they'll survive. YOU SOUND LIKE IT'S YOUR OPINION THAT IT'S QUICK AND EASY TO GET A JOB DOWNTOWN. Huh? When did I say that? I'm talking about the many people who do work downtown -- in government offices, law offices, etc and so on. And not just the lawyers; many people from all over the city work downtown. Those that do could live there and not have to have or use a car very often. That was my point. (To differentiate, just copy my text you want to respond to, and italicize them by putting an i in the middle of the brackets just to the right of the "m" on your keyboard. To stop the italics do it again, but add an / right before the i. Make sense? If not, come up here sometime, and I'll show you how.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-30T11:12:08-06:00
ID
154555
Comment

"COMMO NOW DONNA, YOU SOUND LIKE IT'S YOUR OPINION THAT IT'S QUICK AND EASY TO GET A JOB DOWNTOWN. THIS IS OPENING UP A WHOLE NEW CAN OF WORMS THAT I WOULDN"T EVEN WANT TO PUT IN WRITING AT THIS POINT. BUT IT'S SIMPLY NOT AS EASY AS SAYING, OH I THINK I"LL GET A JOB DOWNTOWN SO I CAN LIVE DOWNTOWN - UNLESS YOU'RE A LAWYER. A PROFESSION THAT ISN"T AS POPULAR IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY AS YOU THINK." If you don't work downtown why would you want to live there? The appeal of living downtown is a convenience for those who work there, not just to attract white residents!

Author
js1976
Date
2009-12-30T11:13:51-06:00
ID
154556
Comment

Now, I should also add that I know that white merchants/companies can be bigoted idiots and not want black people in their stores. One of the big problems with Metrocenter has been the "I see black people" and "I see young people" problem when people see young people in there and are scared of them. So no doubt that retail in largely non-white areas suffers because people won't start businesses there. (Again, cheers to the McDades.) I'm not taking away from that reality in any way; it's just not the only issue, and sadly we need to tackle them all to make it work.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-30T11:16:27-06:00
ID
154557
Comment

Queen, with the state's largest law firm having abandoned Jackson, I'd say it's even more challenging to get a position as an attorney downtown! Indeed, so many of these higher-paying jobs have left the area that the University Club may have to close. As one who sees downtown as the heart of any area, I'd love to see the City incentivizing employers, retailers, and residents there rather than way out in the 'burbs where Metrocenter is located. Then, as Donna pointed out, transit isn't a concern when a true walkable city exists.

Author
carl
Date
2009-12-30T11:18:57-06:00
ID
154563
Comment

Yeah, Donna. I take instruction well; may seem like an idiot to you; but I promise you I am not!!!!!!!!!!!!! Make sense???????????????????

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-30T13:18:48-06:00
ID
154565
Comment

I assume you're kidding, Queen. I don't think you're an idiot for not knowing the intricacies of our site. The iTodd has to show me the very basics of computing on a regular basis. Make sense? (smile)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-30T13:21:11-06:00
ID
154635
Comment

Time to connect the dots, js1976, You are exactly right. The purchase does not appear to make sense without a plan; however, the Clarion Ledger article quoted Mayor Johnson as saying the purchase was basically a pre-emptive move to prevent a church from buing the property at a firesale price and therefore remove it from the tax rolls. WMartin, You are exactly right. A property is worth what it sells for, not what you say it is worth. By purchasing a property formerly thought to be worth $1.25 million for $39,500.00 COJ has just lowered the value of ALL of the similiar commercial property in the City of Jackson. Real estate appraisers call this transaction a "comparable". The next time someone attempts to get a loan against the value of the commercial property in the Mall, or any similiar commercial property anywhere in the city, the COJ $39,500 purchase will be a factor in LOWERING the appraised value of the "other" properties. Queen, You are exactly right. The vast majority of COJ residents will not benefit from downtown development in the near to medium future (5 -10 years). In fact, they will be penalized for not living downtown. By concentrating on the development of downtown with COJ tax give aways in the form of property tax abatement (no city property taxes often 10 years or more), TIF's, City and JRA backed bonds, the city is transferring the remaining taxes paid by the residents of Jackson away from the neighborhoods and into downtown. So the less than affluent are subsidizing the lifestyles of the more affluent. In adddition, since sales taxes are about 50% of COJ's revenues, the less than affluent COJ citizens pay a disproportionate and regressive percentage of the sales taxes, to further subsidize the lifestyles of the more affluent. js1976 and Donna, You are exactly right. Government cannot tell investors what to invest in and what to sell. To meet their financial (and only) goal the private sector invests in businesses, of which people are a both a raw material (and trends indicate people to be an increasingly devalued raw material) and people are also the medium for the exchange of wealth. So what is the solution to COJ's and most other urban cities private private investor "shakedown delimma? What "plan" can be implemented that will insure that if you build it "they will come". It is so simple I am ashamed to say it....again.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-01-02T09:45:52-06:00
ID
154636
Comment

Solution (con't) Its all about people, as the current PR of China Renaissance will attest to. In my opinion, to meet their physical survival and citizen quality of life goals, COJ and urban cities/governments throughout the US, MUST MASSIVELY and PAINFULLY invest in its people (residents) in the form of EDUCATION. An educated populace, combined with the an effective democratic process, the protections of the Constitution and controlled capitalism will thrive in COJ or anywhere else. Lets increase the numbers of the "creative class" here in Jackson. An educated and creative populace is statistically healthier, less prone to property and personal crime and less sensitive to the vargaries of racist mobility. If COJ (and Hinds County 80% of Hinds County tax revenues come from within the city limits of Jackson) had invested the tens of millions of dollars it annually gives away in the form of tax subsidies for business and the affluen our area would be flush with opportunity. Those tax dollars could and should have been (in hind sight) used, to offer the highest teacher salaries in the SE US (we could pick and choose from the best), create independent advisory boards(similiar to the Convention Center, JRA and Airport boards) to assist the JPS volunteer board in making better financial and personnel decisions, creating modern and innovative classrooms, modern labs, relevant shops, etc... businesses and professional people would be flocking to our city. Yes the passage of the last school bond was a major step in the right direction to provide the brick and mortar engine for education advancement in our area, but now it is time to put some gas in the education engine. It's really very simple...invest in your people or the people will perish..or move away! Sure investing in people is a risk, but we have history that also tells us that investing ONLY in private investors projects doesn't work either. By the way, please be advised that there are enough legal mechanisms available to mollify the legislative limits how much investments (propery tax milage) can be levied or increased on a gross or annual, respectively, basis. I believe JPS has just about maxed out its bonding authority and property tax milage limits.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-01-02T10:02:16-06:00
ID
154671
Comment

Frank, I had not heard about the possibility of a church purchasing the property. So you feel that purchasing the property prior to it being removed from the tax rolls was a wise move? Seems to me that instead of losing the tax on that location(which they haven't recieved in several years) they chose to purchase it and incur additional expenses. Don't take this as being argumenative because I would like your take on it.

Author
js1976
Date
2010-01-04T13:33:37-06:00
ID
154699
Comment

js1976, In my opinion, a wise move. Since, Mayor Johnson has said he is making the revitalization of the HWY80 corridor a priority , the purchase is both a politically and an economically wise move. Remember COJ is conducting a $600,000 economic development study on the corridor. Many felt that the study was insufficient and just more lip service. This purchase makes COJ a vested partner in the successful development of the corridor. You know...putting your money where your mouth (study) is. The past due taxes are probably shown as a lien against the property. Any liens will have to be satisfied before the property can change hands. I'm pretty sure COJ will insist that the past due taxes are paid......by the delinquent owner, not COJ. As for the possibility of a church buying the property, New Horizon's Ministry purchased an entire shopping center on Ellis Ave, which they have recently renovated. I'm not sure if the property is owned by the church or an indepemdent non-profit controlled by the church. New Hope Baptist Church had a shopping center donated to it in the 90's. I'm not sure if the property is owned by the church or an indepemdent non-profit controlled by the church. Most non-profits do pay property taxes, unless they get a special exception...churchs, on the other hand, have legislation giving them automatic tax exempt status. The advantage of a corporation selling an asset for an extremely low price, or donating it to a church is that they can maximize the tax deduction for reccording the sale, or donation as a loss. Bottom line, COJ needs an economic development plan or at least a strategy for the entire city. Hattiesburg just updated theirs last year I believe. Mayor Johnson's only been in office for 6 months. I'm sure he is aware of the need and one will be forthcomingg

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-01-04T17:10:27-06:00

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