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Chance of success for Old Capitol Green

Old Capitol Green is a proposed downtown Jackson project that has a good chance for success.

First, some background information, then I’ll give you a dozen reasons why I think this project will succeed. Several years ago, while teaching a college real estate course I challenged my students to assume that a developer had hired them to find the best place in the central business district of downtown Jackson for a new real estate project. After looking at many possibilities the class — and this instructor — concluded that the best place in downtown Jackson for new development would be the area along Commerce Street, just west of the Old Capitol.

One big obstacle to making it happen was that much of the property was owned by Entergy and was being used for some of its operations. Today, things have changed. Although Entergy is still the big owner, it is also willing to sell and to help see that the area is developed. What changed?

For one thing, the company realized that there would be more customers in the area if vacant buildings were either gone or put to use. They also realized that there is a growing interest in the right kind of projects in downtown Jackson, a la the success of the Electric Building, which now has commercial and residential occupants.

Old Capitol Green, as it would be called, is an area bounded by State, Pearl, Jefferson and South streets, and would include apartments, office space, retail and entertainment uses.

So, why will this project succeed? Consider the reasons outlined below. They are in no particular order.

Good access to interstate highways — It’s an easy on/off to I-55 North via Pearl and Pascagoula streets, and also convenient to I-20 west via South State Street. Like it or not, our society is an automobile society and we want good access and a place to park. This area has all of that.

Located in historic area — Jackson was once called LeFleur’s Bluff. Boats plied the Pearl River to Jackson from the Gulf of Mexico in the early days and stopped at a trading post that is practically adjacent to this area. In short, this area was the bluff.

Backed and coordinated by a corporate champion — Entergy Mississippi has stepped out and taken the lead on this project and is to be commended. The company has being doing economic development for years, and it knows what it is doing.

Low crime area — The area is away from areas where panhandlers, thugs and petty criminals lurk.

Definitive boundaries — A key to success of any real estate development is definable boundaries. This helps establish an identity and gives a sense of place. Boundaries also help with the security aspect of a real estate development.

Timing is right — There is a demand for downtown living, as the success of the Electric Building and the Plaza Building has proven.

GO Zone — The benefits offered by this legislation have taken away a lot of risk that may have been associated with most real estate projects. It is also the piece that makes a project economically feasible that might have been on the cusp.

Right mix of housing, retail, and commercial — As mentioned above, Old Capitol Green is the right project at the right time. It would have been a travesty if this area have been proposed as a manufacturing project.

Legislative approval — Because part of the property is owned by the State of Mississippi, there was approval needed for various aspects involving transfer of property and related matters. The legislature stepped up.

High ground — The old real estate axiom about buying the high ground holds true in this case. The views to the east will be sunrise over the river — and perhaps Twin Lakes one day — and to the west will be the sunset behind the skyline of downtown.

The movers and shakers want it to succeed — This project has the backing of not only the corporate leader mentioned above, it also has the support of the downtown leaders, legislators and a variety of community leaders.

And although woven into the discussion above, there are three other factors that will make Old Capitol Green a success — location, location and location.

I have only one final question: Who do I see to put down my deposit?

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is phil@philhardwick.com and his Web site is www.philhardwick.com.

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