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Jackson Place design: people and nature together downtown

Jackson Place, a mixed-use project expected to be a key facor in downtown Jackson’s renaissance, is also meant to be a project of national significance. That’s why the developer, Parkway Properties, called in nationally recognized urban planners for a design charrette focused on the project and the greater downtown area. The intensive design process allows for collaboration and immediate feedback by participating designers, developers and others involved in Jackson Place.

Steve Rogers, Parkway Properties president and CEO, says a charrette is a fancy word for work session. “It was a good opportunity for people from a lot of disciplines to come together, roll up their sleeves and work and make decisions,” he said.

He points out that building this development is not just about architects. “Things to consider include security, landscaping, traffic control, lighting, irrigation, how the parking integrates with the city and many others,” he said.

“If you don’t get people together and talk about it, things may not go well. We want to make sure we cover everything.”
Rogers says the project is bigger than The Pinnacle, an office building that will bring much needed Class A office space to the downtown area. The entire block that makes up Jackson Place will also have public gardens, retail, restaurants and residences. It will be the largest mixed-use project in the state. The block is bounded by Amite, Capitol, Lamar and Farish streets.

“Jackson Place will be the finest commercial mixed-use project in Mississippi,” Rogers said. “The master plan is to create a total environment in which people can live, work, play, invest and benefit. Our excitement about the development of Jackson Place is matched by our belief in the possibilities for positive growth in the downtown area.”

A Jackson native who’s lived all his adult life inside the city limits, Rogers is dedicated to making Jackson Place the best it can be, and that includes incorporating green architecture and obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

“That’s very important and we believe in it fundamentally,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do and we will try to implement as many green concepts as possible. A building can be a responsible citizen too.”

The developers will incorporate ways to save energy and lower operating costs. A new Jackson Place logo was also presented at the charrette, a graphic representing the various structures that will make up the block and reflecting a spirit of joining nature and buildings into a harmonious composition.

The charrette was led by Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT), a Philadelphia, Pa.-based planning and design firm that specializes in city and regional planning and urban design. Some of the firm’s notable projects include the United States Capitol Master Plan, the Action Plan to Rebuild New Orleans and the City of Miami Downtown Development.

Project architects Dale and Associates Architects, a national award-winning firm based in Jackson, joined WRT and Parkway’s Jackson Place development team for an intensive, on-site creative session that was the culmination of months of urban planning consultation and design development between the groups.

Architectural details and changes to the property will establish Jackson Place as a distinct destination within downtown. The entire block will be a premier location offering office space, upscale shops, dining and residential units, all connected by climate-controlled corridors and a public garden.

Much of the charrette process focused on the public view of the block, sidewalk areas and convenient access as well as the aesthetics of the working, living and public spaces. That spirit of design employs Rogers’ vision of inclusiveness.

“We want the community to be a part of it,” he said. “That’s why we’re so inclusive. We want school children out there painting the construction panels and we want to involve the arts and others. We will have wonderful gardens people can enjoy and some may want to have weddings there.”

He believes a lot of people are pulling for this project because it will improve life for many. “We need to be hugging each other. There’s no room for pushing each other aside,” he said. “In all the places I’ve seen projects like this work, that’s the way it’s done.”

The charrette concluded with a presentation to city officials and community leaders and had an enthusiastic reception. Rogers says if there’s any disagreement, he’s not aware of it.

The first phase constructed will be the office space, The Pinnacle, with a ground breaking scheduled for June 1. The facility is slated to open in the fall of 2008 with four primary tenants — the law firms of Brunini Grantham Grower and Hewes, PLLC, and Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, P.A., Trustmark National Bank and EastGroup Properties Inc. The residences will be the last component built.

“We would love to have the ground breaking sooner but we can’t,” Rogers said. “We may look like a duck that looks serene as it paddles around the lake, but under the surface we’re paddling furiously.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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