A mixed-use development on the site of Jackson’s Old Blind School has confirmed tenants a few months before construction begins.
The District at Eastover will sit on Interstate 55 and be bordered by the Eastover and Fondren neighborhoods.
So far, a Residence Inn by Marriott, Community Trust Bank, Cantina Laredo restaurant, a movie theater, a main office building and 190 residential lofts will form the project’s perimeter.
Ted Duckworth and Breck Hines, principals of The District Land Development Co., bought the 23-acre parcel from the state last year. The project got a boost from Jackson officials this week when the city council approved a $7 million TIF package.
Construction, which will include demolishing an old house that once served as the Blind School’s director’s residence, is scheduled to start in about 90 days or so, Hines said. “We’ve always said that if we’re pushing dirt by late summer or early fall, we’ll be happy.”
Construction of Phase I – which will include the hotel, the restaurants, office building, bank, the lofts and possibly one or two other pieces — will take 12-15 months.
The rest of the project’s timetable will depend on finding the right tenants for the space. “And I don’t think we’ll have to wait long,” Hines said. “I think it’ll come together pretty much at the same time.”
The 585,000 square-foot project will include retail, office and residential space.
The project’s design was gleaned from similar developments in cities like Houston, Nashville and Dallas. “We’ve learned a lot from other successful projects, learned why they’re successful,” Hines said. “These are restaurant concepts here that we think will be new to Jackson. Food has kind of gotten cool over the last 10 years. Chefs are like rock stars now. You’re got an opportunity to drive the entertainment value. Look at Nashville. It’s become the new Charleston the last 12 months. And here, there are some real culinary tie-ins with our agrarian heritage.”
The theater will include food-service in the lobby, with the screens and main lobby area separated by escalators “so there’s no hanging out or loitering or anything like that,” Hines said. “We’ve modeled it after a concept at Highland Park Village in Dallas. It’s a small concept, with four screens, two of which are bigger screens and two that more skybox-inspired that can be used for meetings and parties or other events. It’s not a theater like folks in Mississippi are used to.”
Said Duckworth: “We’re chasing folks that aren’t here. We want to bring new stuff to Jackson, and this exposure on the highway should demand that.”
Duckworth and Hines said that the perimeter of the development is basically set, with the hotel, restaurants, general office space, theater, bank and the lofts. The middle portion remains flexible, depending on what tenants locate there.
A sign recently erected on the edge of the property has not gone unnoticed, Duckworth said. “We’re getting phone calls from all across the state. We recently got one from somebody wanting to do a juice bar. She’d been looking in Fondren because that’s the health-conscious urban crowd. But there’s not a lot of available space there. Within a five-minute drive time of that area is the highest daytime population in the state of Mississippi. So that’s why Fondren and Highland Village are so successful. Regardless of anything else, you have 100,000 people within a five-minute drive time. Compared to somebody in Madison, we’ve got three times more customers during the day within a five-minute drive time. I think that’s why the market is so tight in those places.”