As the Mississippi Business Journal turns its editorial focus to real estate this week, the future of a downtown Jackson landmark remains uncertain.
With negotiations to renovate the historic King Edward Hotel breaking down, redirecting and moving on, it is unclear what the property’s final fate will be.
However, the goal of revitalizing the Capital City’s downtown remains.
As John Lawrence, president of Jackson Downtown Partners points out in an MBJ focus story, “We can’t forget, however, that this is more than just a real estate deal. This is a downtown icon, a symbol of historic Mississippi. This property deserves whatever the community can muster to ensure its revitalization. And it is going to take a great deal of assistance. The state, county and city will all have to step up to the plate to provide some level of gap financing. If this were a market-rate project, it would have been completed by now. But it is a community development project that needs public, private and philanthropic support.”
Of course, while passionate supporters of a re-energized downtown exist, skeptics are not hard to find. Doubts about city leadership, from the mayor to the city council, as well as ongoing concerns about crime (or the perception of it, if you will) are often cited as obstacles to a bright future for downtown. Many wonder, especially those of us living in the suburbs or other parts of the state, “Who cares about Jackson?” Well…
“Why should we, as a community, care? Think of Memphis without the Peabody Hotel,” Lawrence says. “Think of the jobs this project would create. Think of the blight it will remove.
Think of the statement that will be made when train passengers from the City of New Orleans see Mississippi with a proud new face. Think of the collateral development it will inspire. Redevelopment… is priority number one.”
Opinions about the importance of downtown Jackson and the future of the city are wide ranging. However, as the state’s capital, Jackson commands a special place in the life of every Mississippian. So, as the debate continues and redevelopment efforts move ahead (and some don’t), let’s hope that the skeptics are wrong and the city’s future is bright.