If you take the Pearl Street exit off I-55 in Jackson and head downtown, one of the first and most recognizable buildings you encounter is at the intersection of Pearl and President streets.
That’s where Canizaro Cawthon and Davis Architects (CCD) sits. And, if Steve Davis has his way, that is where the firm will sit for another 70 years.
The firm celebrated its 70th anniversary last fall.
“There have been firms come and go, but we are the oldest continuously operating architecture firm,” Davis said.
Enduring for 70 years in one community has everything to do with being an active member of one.
“We’re really embedded here,” he said.
Embedding the firm in Jackson is by design, Davis said, because 90 percent of the firm’s work is in the Jackson area.
The firm takes a prominent role in the revitalization efforts underway in downtown Jackson. It started eight years ago, when the firm was scouting locations for its new office.
Davis pointed to two areas of Jackson as options for the new space: Fondren or downtown.
“We’ve always been in Jackson, and both those areas have a sense of community. They both have identities rather than being this anonymous strip center that so much of the world is these days,” Davis said.
A sense of community and identity is usually something residential neighborhoods are built around. Davis admits a business community having those qualities is “pretty unusual.” And, creating a business community that has the feel of a giant neighborhood is a difficult task, and one that a government cannot or will not create.
“I think what many of us have learned is you can’t wait for the government to do it for you,” Davis said.
So, CCD and other downtown businesses have taken it upon themselves to restore downtown Jackson to a place that is not defined by its problems.
“The business community has to step up and be a solution. The business community can’t sit back and wait for government to solve the problem,” Davis said. “The business community can propose the solution and government can help. There is a place for government, like with the (Jackson Convention Complex). But, in general the revitalization of downtown is happening because of private business.”
To reach that end, CCD has had a hand in several major projects downtown and its surrounding area. The firm’s 22 architects designed Fondren Place, a mixed-use development whose first phase opened last fall and a development that was recently named by the Jackson Free Press as the best architecture in Jackson. The firm took the lead in designing the new Mississippi Children’s Museum on Ridgewood Road and on Entergy Mississippi’s transmission headquarters on Echelon Parkway.
To help Jackson, CCD has to do all it can to help its core customer base in Jackson, Davis said.
“We do everything for our clients that they need,” he said.
When CCD moved into its new building on President Street, it was one of the first clear signs of the redevelopment of downtown Jackson.
“It has some kind of presence to it. One of the things we’ve done is kind of dreamed of what might be,” Davis said. “Our building was one of the first real sign posts of change in downtown. We were one of the first people to suggest that the Old Capitol Green project could be a good idea. You looked over there and saw acres and acres vacant land two blocks from downtown.”
For the firm, another advantage of being downtown is the convenience. Davis says most of out-of-office meetings are within walking distance. Besides the obvious advantage of saving gas money, walking to meetings offers another advantage.
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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