JACKSON — High Street is seen as the gateway to the Capital City and is one of its most heavily traveled corridors with approximately 19,100 vehicles traveling on it each day.
Now, thanks to the City of Jackson, with its contribution of about $853,000, the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s approximately $3.7-million contribution and the Bureau of Buildings’ $1.2-million contribution, that corridor is getting a much-needed facelift.
The project is no small task.
Once complete, those who travel the .6-mile area of High Street, which begins at North Street and ends at Greymont Street, will notice a new center turn lane at the entrance of the fairgrounds, sidewalks, irrigated landscaping and architectural lighting along the corridor.
Also, overhead utilities are being buried, water and sewer lines are being upgraded and the intersection at High Street and Jefferson Street is being lowered about three feet to improve sight distance. The project, with a total cost of about $5.4 million, should be complete by the end of 2002.
Jay Hambright, senior vice president of economic development for the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, said the High Street upgrade is positive for the chamber.
“High Street is a primary entrance to the city,” Hambright said. “It is often one of the first and most lasting impressions of the Capital City.”
John Lawrence, president of the Downtown Jackson Partners, said the project is a mechanism to leverage private development.
“The project will get people excited about doing business in the area,” Lawrence explained.
More importantly, however, is the reinvestment the City of Jackson and the State of Mississippi have put into an existing area, he said.
“Most communities have to overcome going to new areas and building new projects,” Lawrence said. “It’s often done in a manner that neglects existing infrastructure. But we’re willing to reinvest into existing infrastructures, which is just as important in growth in other areas.”
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. is looking forward to seeing what the reinvestment into High Street will mean for the city.
“The High Street Improvement Project will create a first-class corridor into the City of Jackson and the Capitol Complex,” Johnson said. “Entrepreneurs in the area tell us they are excited about it and some have already seen an increase in business. I believe it will only enhance the businesses already on or near High Street and serve as an incentive for new development. People will be drawn to the area because of its beauty and because it’s new, and will visit businesses in the area while there.”
Jimmy Morton, owner of Chimneyville Smokehouse BBQ & Catering on High Street, is passionate about the High Street Improvement Project.
“It’s going to be fabulous when they finish,” Morton said. “Yes, there have been some minor distractions. It’s kind of like a driving derby everyday. But the crews are working themselves to death. I’ve never seen people work the way these people are working.
“With anything that’s good there’s a little bit of pain, but it’s getting significantly better everyday.”
When the High Street project is complete, Morton believes travelers will automatically select to travel High Street to get into the city because of the ease of traffic flow it will offer. He also believes more businesses will enter the area.
Boots & More co-owner Lisa Knight said her store’s visibility has actually increased as a result of the construction on High Street.
“People have to stop or slow down and look over here,” Knight said.
Even if business at Boots & More had not increased, Knight said she would still be happy about the improvements to the corridor.
“You’ve got to have change,” Knight said. “That is real life.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at email@example.com or (601) 364-1042.