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Ambitious Harbor Walk project sets target date of 2008

Ridgeland — The dirt is moving at the ambitious Harbor Walk development on the Ross Barnett Reservoir and developers are hoping the first phase of the $250-million project is on track for a 2008 premiere.

The waterfront Harbor Walk will have a marina, an upscale hotel, condominiums, retail shops, restaurants and offices, fronted by a boardwalk along the water. The development is patterned after urban harbor towns and will resemble Santana Row in San Jose, Calif. The one-million-square-foot phase one includes the 200-room Valencia Hotel, an upscale boutique type hotel that should open in 2008. Standing on one side of the hotel will be a six-story office building, and on the other side a condominium building with upscale condos selling for approximately $300 a square foot.

Retail shops and restaurants will be located on the ground floors of these buildings. Bruster’s Ice Cream, several dress stores, restaurants and a second hotel have expressed interest in moving in. Johnny and Margaret Stewart, owners of the Stone Pony Oyster Bar in Canton, have committed to putting in a Stone Pony at Harbor Walk. Taking full advantage of the water views, the Stone Pony will have a 2,000-square-foot deck on the water, plus more seating inside. The Stewarts will offer a similar menu of oysters, po-boys and nightly entertainment.

“It’s going to be such a high-end development, and we think there’s going to be a lot of business there,” said Johnny Stewart.

Jackson retailer Beth Griffith, owner of the Fashion Post, is considering opening an upscale shoe store along the boardwalk. She believes a shop like hers would be a nice addition to the water sports, restaurants and hotel. She likens Harbor Walk to a vacation destination, and people like to shop for shoes while on vacation.

“It’s (Harbor Walk) going to be a fun thing to go and do. Right now you have to go to Vicksburg, Tunica, the Coast or New Orleans to have a special outing,” said Griffith. “This would allow people to stay in the city and enjoy the Reservoir and keep their money here.”

Prep work for Harbor Walk began last year when the Corps of Engineers gave Main Harbor Development, LLC, the go-ahead to begin improvements to the harbor. The first phase of new floating house boat piers are finished and occupied. There is a covered community deck for residents to cook out and gather. Although a very small part of the picture, the piers show people the quality going into Harbor Walk, said Main Harbor principal John Burwell.

The old house boat piers are now being torn down to make way for more than 300 new piers for sailboats, pontoons and perhaps cruisers. When workers began tearing down the old piers, they found the boats were all that had been holding up some of the old piers, said Burwell. “They’re collapsing into the water,” he said.

Dirt work has started on the 10-acre parking garage. Main Harbor has also finalized plans for Harbor Station, a new fuel dock. Harbor Station’s 6,000 square feet will house a restaurant and a convenience store/bait shop on the bottom floor and offices on the second floor. There will be two 100-foot long piers for people to dock their boats.

The City of Ridgeland closed Harbor Drive in February to make way for a four-lane boulevard similar to the upscale Highland Colony Parkway a few miles away.

Five more phases are planned for more condominiums, office buildings and perhaps residential properties. The entire development will cover more than 100 acres of waterfront property with approximately four million square feet.
Phase one costs approximately $125 million. Earlier this year, $16 million was approved through a Tax Increment Financing plan (TIF). The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has also awarded a $13.1-million tourism grant. Another $2.5 million was awarded by MDA to the City of Ridgeland for construction of the four-lane boulevard.

Burwell believes Harbor Walk’s proposed 2008 target date will be helped by the Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone tax incentives designed to help Katrina-damaged areas rebuild and attract new development. One GO Zone incentive is a 50% bonus depreciation for new businesses that open by December 31, 2008.

“If you’re building a $40-million hotel, you get a $20-million depreciation if you have a certificate of occupancy by December 31, 2008,” said Burwell. “It’s a deadline everybody would like to meet.”

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com.

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