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Hopes run high for University Place

Rendering of University Place Jackson

Rendering of University Place Jackson

JACKSON — The City of Jackson had numerous mixed-use development projects on the books before the recession came along and stalled them. However, the first of those pre-recession projects is officially underway, and leaders expect it to have a positive ripple effect throughout the downtown district.

Officials broke ground this morning for the first phase of University Place of Jackson, called One University Place, a $100-plus-million mixed-use development near the campus of Jackson State University (JSU).

As the ceremony began, a cold fog lifted and the sun appeared. Dr. Ronald Mason, president of Jackson State University, said this was symbolic — brighter days lie ahead for the university, West Jackson and the downtown district.

Ben Allen agreed. President of the Downtown Jackson Partners, Allen said the project ties downtown Jackson to the university, and is another step toward Jackson’s New Urbanism movement.

"It’s huge," Allen said. "I think it will spur other development in the area. It will have a ripple effect."

One University Place is scheduled to open in the summer of 2010, offering 78 one- and two-bedroom apartments over 22,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

It represents roughly a year-and-a-half of work, though Troy Stovall, treasurer of the JSU Development Foundation Inc., said talk of such a project had been ongoing for approximately a decade.

The designer on the project is G. Niles Bolton & Associates, and the general contractor is Harrell Contracting Group. Financing, which includes New Market Tax Credits, was supplied by Trustmark National Bank, Hampton Roads Ventures Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Transcapital/Dudley Ventures.

Bob Jenkins with Hampton Roads Ventures said JSU said the university should be applauded for looking out from the campus.

"Many colleges and universities are investing inside their gates, not outside," he said using Temple University as an example.

Jerry Host, chief of staff at Trustmark, which provided $15 million in financing, said Trustmark’s involvement in the University Place of Jackson project as part of the financial institution’s commitment to the city and the university, and said the bank was thrilled to be part of an outstanding team.

Does the beginning of University Place of Jackson signal that the economy is improving, and stalled projects will soon be going forward? Jimmy Heidel, economic development consultant for the City of Jackson, believes it does. He said he has been talking to banks, and credit appears to be loosening. That, coupled with Gulf Opportunity bonds, New Market Tax Credits and other assistance, has him optimistic.

Allen pointed to other projects as proof the economic environment was improving. He added that the King Edward mixed-use development recently received its certificate of occupancy, another plus in downtown Jackson development.

About Wally Northway

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