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JRA will cover $1.5 million HUD repayment for Farish St. blunders

hud_logoThe Jackson Redevelopment Authority agreed Wednesday to cover a demand from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for repayment of $1.5 million HUD invested in downtown’s dead Farish Street project.

The City of Jackson had agreed to repay the money over three years starting in December 2016. But that could have left in place a suspension HUD put on the Jackson Redevelopment Authority for violations that occurred during the 16-year effort to convert Farish Street into an entertainment district.

The JRA board will ask HUD for 30 days to meet conditions set in a Sept. 7 “monitoring” letter in which the agency outlined a list of policy violations by the JRA and the City of Jackson. The Sept. 7 letter had set a 30-day deadline for compliance with a host of conditions HUD said must be met.

» READ MORE: David Watkins demands HUD retract claims made in Farish project report

JRA Chairwoman Jennifer Johnson said the Redevelopment Authority has the money to cover the HUD repayment but must look over its budget to see specifically where it can draw the funds from. The board agreed to pay the money but must vote either in a special meeting or at next month’s regular meeting to officially approve the repayment.

Paying the money “would free us up” to resume work on redevelopment projects throughout the city that involve HUD money, Johnson said.

HUD provided the $1.5 million at the start of the Farish Street redevelopment to cover the costs of buying 17 storefront parcels spanning three blocks. The City failed, however, to make the JRA an eligible sub-grantee for the money, thus forcing HUD to demand the repayment.

“Simply returning the funds is making the taxpayers whole,” Johnson said.

The Farish Street project has been dead since the JRA terminated a 45-year-lease agreement with Watkins Development and its Farish Street Group affiliate last October.

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