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Grants Ferry Parkway, LLC, investors hope to replicate success seen in Madison County

Real estate lightning striking twice? Developers hope so

Mark S. Bounds is hoping lightning will strike twice.

As one of a limited number of investors in Grants Ferry Parkway, LLC, he’s betting that opening up highway access to land just outside east Brandon in Rankin County will lead to the same kind of real estate market that the building of Highland Colony Parkway in Madison County did.

“Highland Colony Parkway was in an area where there was virtually nothing,” Bounds said.

The Madison real estate developer and his partners had bought over 400 acres between U.S. 80 and Paige McDill Road, east of the city of Brandon. As various investors continued buying various tracts of land between Highways 80 and 417, they began discussing the possibilities for development with each other late last year.

“Why couldn’t we combine everything we’ve got into one investor group? And why couldn’t we develop it like they did Highland Colony Parkway in Madison?” Bounds said.

It’s a bet that should begin to pay off quickly for H. C. Bailey Company, the lead developer of what is envisioned as a five-mile-long parkway connecting U.S. 80 to Hwy. 471. The surrounding development, expected to be 550 acres of residential and 250 acres of commercial property, is projected to have a $1-billion impact.

Bailey hopes that Grants Ferry Parkway will be up and running within two years, compared to 10 years it took to get Madison County Parkway off the ground. “Highland Colony took 10 years because it involved more landowners — 20 or 30 in that group,” Bailey said at a press conference in Brandon announcing the development.

Opportunity to the east

At the press event, Bailey indicated that his success in developing Legacy, a high-end subdivision on U.S. 80 in East Brandon, convinced him that the area was prime for the kind of residential, retail and commercial development he had fostered on Highland Colony Parkway.

With more than 25 existing homes priced in the $300,000-plus range, Legacy has already begun a second phase at the intersection of Legacy Drive and Eastwood Drive Extension to further develop the land for high-end residential use.

Brandon Mayor Roe Grubbs, who is running for re-election, said that Bailey worked with the city on water, sewer and other infrastructure to develop the subdivision and was pleased with the results. “Buster apparently had a good feeling about what we were doing here,” said Grubbs.

Bailey noted that when the opportunity came up to purchase several tracts of timberland from International Paper east of Brandon, the similarities to the land surrounding the Highland Colony Parkway became more obvious. “The land was very well located geographically with very poor access — and that’s what we found here.”

“Buster Bailey was watching the same macroeconomic trend we were watching — the growth of Brandon to the east, “said Bounds.

Most observers agree that the project has very good chances of success. “East Brandon has long been perfect for this kind of development,” Grubbs said at the project announcement.

Bounds noted that several trends were coming together that could make Brandon the newest hot spot among Rankin County’s already booming municipalities.

Various housing types are available throughout the area, ranging from easily affordable to the premium properties, and the building of north-south roads to connect their various east-west routes should enhance access throughout the city, Bounds noted. The county’s efforts to implement zoning controls have gone a long way to making unincorporated areas of Rankin County more attractive, as well.

“That fact that it has occurred has been a positive for the project,” he said.

While final details on the parkway’s path, its eventual cost and the types of properties that will surround it are not yet on the drawing board, plans for the first development are being drawn up, consisting of an open-air lifestyle shopping center at the southwest corner, between U.S. 80 and Trickham Bridge Road.

“We think that’s a great anchor point,” said Bounds. “It should create a tremendous value with respect to new tax-roll real estate.”

Grubbs is certain that the project should not take long to come to fruition, citing the past cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Transportation on other road projects under way in the Rankin County.

“MDOT is always real cooperative when it comes to transportation issues that help everybody,” he said.

Traffic is key

Highway 471, a winding two-lane road connecting highways 80 and 25, is known for traffic snarls already, with approximately 14,000 cars per day traveling over it in Brandon. Almost 6,000 cars per day use the intersection of 471 and Mississippi 25, according to press reports. The proposed parkway would link U.S. 80 at the east Brandon interchange with Highway 471 in the vicinity of Grants Ferry Road, which also comes out on Highway 25 in the Castlewoods area.

Only about half of the proposed 800-acre development is currently within the Brandon city limits — the rest is in unincorporated areas of the county. At the news conference, Grubbs indicated that Brandon is already prepared to seek annexation in July for the part of the development not already in the city limits.

Increased traffic is a major downside to such a project, said Doris High of High’s Heaters and Grills, one of the few businesses in the area where the roadway plans to connect with Highway 471. “There’s going to be a lot more traffic, which we don’t like,” said High. “The growth is wonderful, but it takes away from the country setting that we used to have,” said High, who has marked 31 years in her Brandon location. The increased traffic may not help her business — only about 50% of her customers are from the Jackson metro area — the rest are from other portions of the Mississippi and the Southeast. Only about 25% of the business’ growth over the years can be attributed to the growth in the Brandon area, according to High, who sells high-end gas grills, wood heaters, gas-fired heaters and fireplace units.

Brandon alderwoman Yvonne Bianchi said that after living in Brandon for many, many years, being able to see it continue to change and grow has been very exciting. “I believe that with everything we’ve planned up to this point, if the economy stays good, I doubt it will take as long as the Highland Colony Parkway did to get off the ground,” said Bianchi.

Grubbs, citing the successes of Highland Colony with 1.5 million square feet of retail space and 700,000 square feet of office space, said, “We believe that with the opportunity and the cooperation of public officials in this community, we can have similar success with this project.”

And he indicated he was glad that it was Bailey and his fellow investors taking on the project. “The people involved in this are people who know what they’re doing,” Grubbs said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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