Since moving from upstate New York to work in Port Gibson 33 years ago, Dick and Ellen Ambrosino have fallen in love with Mississippi.
“We wouldn’t live anywhere else,” said Dick Ambrosino, president of Parkway Development Inc. and former plant manager for Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. “However, we love to travel to Europe and I wanted to bring some of that Old World design to Mississippi, too.”
After mulling how to marry high-end residential property with Class A office space and upscale retail stores in northern Madison County, the Ambrosinos took a short break to Greece. On the return flight home, they were unable to land in New York because of a blackout. Instead, they were routed to Boston, where they stayed overnight at a luxury hotel at the Cambridgeside Galleria.
“Guess what was attached to the hotel? Class A offices with marble floors and glass and brass door treatments and very high-level shops with boutique restaurants and tables in the promenade,” said Ambrosino. “That was the last piece of the puzzle we envisioned in Mississippi.”
By the end of 2005, infrastructure and roadwork will be completed for the $500-million, 280-acre master planned development, which will sit on the Galleria Parkway running north from Highway 463, just east of Interstate 55, two miles to the Bear Creek area. It will feature the upscale residential neighborhood, Fontanelle and the Galleria complex.
Fontanelle, which means ‘villa’ in Italian, will feature 269 lots on 138 acres, buffered by 10 acres of lakes with fountains, a clubhouse with a swimming pool and green space on 13 acres, all fashioned in a European Old World design. A heavy Italian influence will be incorporated through a blend of cobblestone patterns and balusters, wrought iron, copper, brick and stucco architectural elements. The first phase, containing 80 lots, will be ready this fall.
“We have about 23% green space in Fontanelle, a very high percentage compared to other residential areas,” said Ambrosino. “The north shore of the lake doesn’t have home sites, for example, so that everyone living there can enjoy it. The sidewalks aren’t straight. They weave and wind for a homier atmosphere and have a natural canopy and walking trail. It will be a very beautiful and comfortable place to call home.”
A six-story luxury hotel will anchor the Galleria, with two three-story wings, both totaling 500,000 square feet, and featuring retail and restaurant space on the first floor and Class A office space on the second and third levels. Heavily glassed, the traditional contemporary design will feature archways and columns. The outskirts will house additional restaurant and retail space, plus buildings with Class A office space measuring 5,000 to 10,000 square feet.
“Our market study showed that, within a mile radius, the median income is over $100,000,” said Ambrosino. “We also found that many professionals in this area work for themselves and are looking for very nice small office space, which is somewhat challenging to find.”
The Galleria Parkway will feature a landscaped boulevard design and landmark rotary circles and will be flanked by groves of trees. Even the service drive will emulate a quaint street, lined with antique lampposts. “Everything needs to look just right,” said Ambrosino. “We have spent considerable time making sure of that.”
Ambrosino established Parkway Development in 1997 as a full-service, commercial real estate firm in Jackson. Among its projects: a civic center in Batesville, various churches, industrial plants around the U.S. and office buildings along Highland Colony Parkway. The Galleria project marks the development of its first master planned community.
“We have the financing in place, approval from the county and DEQ, and Mendrop-Wages has completed the engineering work,” said Ambrosino. “We have no partners in this. We’re doing very little leveraging of anything, and we’ll do it the way it needs to be done.”
The Galleria-type image fits the new trend in malls and generates excitement by typically drawing big names like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, J. Jill and J. Crew, and outpaces other new U.S. malls in leasing, generally opening approximately 90% leased. No retailers have been announced, emphasized Ambrosino.
“When we hit 20% to 25% leased, we’ll go ahead and build,” he said.
Parkway Development is also talking to entertainment venues, including a movie theater, and would love to recruit a comedy club to the Galleria.
The residential component should be completed in four years. The entire Galleria development may take up to 15 years to finish.
“We don’t expect this to be built overnight,” said Ambrosino. “We do expect it to be built right. This is one of the last major projects I’ll do. My family will be in Mississippi for generations to come and I wanted to do my part to help us grow.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.