Potential Farish Street Developer Leroy Smith Makes Pitch to JRA | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Potential Farish Street Developer Leroy Smith Makes Pitch to JRA

Leroy C. Smith.

Leroy C. Smith. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

Leroy C. Smith, a Denver-based developer, made his pitch today for why he is the person who should take on redevelopment of Farish Street.

As part of a court order in an ongoing dispute over the Farish Street Entertainment District, Smith made a presentation at the monthly meeting of the Jackson Redevelopment Authority.

In November, Hinds County Chancellor Dewayne Thomas, who has been handling a series of lawsuits between JRA and developer David Watkins, ordered JRA to listen to Smith's presentation as a possible solution to ending the litigation.

Smith started by touting his own Mississippi ties, which include his father being born in Hazelhurst.

Smith, president and chief executive officer at LCS Land Development LLC, originally said he had investors ready to pump $100 million into the Farish Street Entertainment District. That deal fell through, and Smith has assembled a new team.

That team consists of Robert Gibbs, an attorney and former circuit court judge, as well as attorney and business owner Harvey Freelon.

The investment team members are based in Arizona and Colorado.

Marcus Wallace, owner of Jackson-based M.A.C. & Associates and mayor of Edwards, is a member of Smith's construction team; Dale Partners, another Jackson firm, is on the design team, Smith said.

Smith said he has more than three decades of residential and commercial development experience, which includes working on the redevelopment of Denver's historic Five Points neighborhood, once known as the "Harlem of the West."

"Denver was like Jackson 40 years ago," he told JRA. "I can bring a lot of talent here."

JRA's commissioners mostly just listened as Smith talked about his vision for Farish Street.

Phase I of his plan focuses on one block of Farish and a commitment of redeveloping six buildings, including a blues cafe, a country music bar, a microbrewery and three unnamed restaurants. Smith believes his team can complete Phase I by September 2016—in time for holiday shopping—if JRA approves an memorandum of understanding within 30 days.

Phase II includes a boutique hotel as well as an innovation and training center.

"The market is wide open for that kind of development," Smith said. "You need those bodies in places that are going to spend money locally downtown and you don't have this big exit to the suburbs."

Other plans call for a music hall, recording and film studio, radio station and "food cooking show."

Smith declined to speak with reporters afterward, saying that he wants to get an agreement with JRA in place before giving interviews.

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