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Developer, state can't work a deal

JACKSON — Negotiations between a Jackson developer and the state to build a mixed-use development on the Old Blind School site in Jackson have broken down.

Ted Duckworth said Tuesday afternoon that he would seek to modify the legislation that outlines the terms that have governed negotiations between him and the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

The sticking point, Duckworth said, is the part of the legislation that requires a minimum $100-million investment in the development, whose plans include a hotel, movie theater, retail space and residential units.

The legislation was passed in the 2007 session, when securing financing for a $100-million project was easier that it has become since the credit markets tightened as a result of the recession. Duckworth hopes lawmakers will reduce the minimum investment number in the upcoming session, which starts in less than two months.

“That is our only option,” Duckworth said.

The legislation authorized the MDA to negotiate on behalf of the Department of Education. Hosemann would have to approve an agreement before it could be executed.

Duckworth was the only developer to response to the MDA’s request for proposals.

The state would not sell the property to Duckworth. Rather, he would pay the state rent based on 10 percent of the land value. The proposal calls for no investment from the state.

Once he started negotiating with the MDA and Hosemann, Duckworth said several roadblocks emerged. The latest, he said, was Hosemann requiring the developer of the property have $20 million in liquid assets on hand, something that wouldn’t work for any developer, “not just me,” Duckworth said. “We shouldn’t have reached an impasse because they had the flexibility to make a deal. They just chose not to be flexible.”

A spokesperson for the secretary of state said Hosemann’s comment would have to come in conjunction with the MDA, since that agency is the lead negotiator for the state. A Mississippi Business Journal reporter had not heard from either by late yesterday afternoon.


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