The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s purchase of the Landmark Center — a deal considered a much-needed game changer for downtown Jackson — is dead, UMMC officials say.
UMMC officials say they ceased negotiations with owners of the 366,500 square-foot building after other needs arose, including the cost of moving unmarked graves from land off Lakeland Drive north of the campus needed for expansion. Also contributing was a decision not to go ahead with a public-private hotel project that would have displaced a significant number of UMMC workers on campus and created a needed for additional office space that the Landmark could fill.
The Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning approved the purchase of the building at 175 E. Capitol St. in November UMMC was looking to pay between $6.1 million and $6.5 million and planned improvements such as a new roof for the seven-floor structure.
The deal’s demise is “a big disappointment to a lot of people in Jackson and lot of people here on campus,” UMMC spokesman Jack Mazurak said. “It is just not financially responsible right now.”
The pending purchase helped ease the pain downtown proponents felt when state officials passed over the Landmark and selected Clinton’s SouthPointe Business Center as the new home of the Department of Revenue. But with neither a major tenant nor buyer in the wings for the Landmark, downtown’s office space vacancy will remain in the high 30 percent range. The Landmark has been empty since the departure of former main tenant AT&T.
Believing the Landmark would get UMMC as an owner “is why we didn’t raise too much hell” about losing the DOR to Clinton, said Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, a public-private entity responsible for promoting and enhancing downtown as a destination for working, shopping and living.
The arrival of 300 or so new workers downtown, and the likelihood of more to follow as space in the Landmark filled – was to bring a significant economic boost to downtown. Mississippi Main Street has statistics that show the average worker downtown spends a $125 a week, including parking, eating, happy hours and miscellaneous expenses such as dry cleaning, according to Allen.
“It could put $30,000 a week into the downtown economy,” Allen said last year after UMMC confirmed it wanted the Landmark to provide office space and a home to its rapidly growing Tele Health Services. Tele Health Services has since signed a lease for additional space in its current home in the UBS building at Interstate -55 and County Line Road.