By TED CARTER
New construction, fixups, conversions, big plans for the future — all are part of daily life in Fondren, Jackson’s midtown pedestrian-style community known for its Art Deco buildings, art galleries, photography studios, salons, restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues.
Real estate developer Mike Peters has had a hand in a lot of the change over the past decade, including the restoration of the Duling School, Fondren Corner (formerly the Dale building) and other projects. There’s plenty still to do, Peters says.
“I think there is an opportunity for every single use,” he says.
“Our assessment is come on down. There is room for a lot more.”
More is indeed on the way, according to real estate professionals and others involved in the continued renaissance of the one-time farming community just north of downtown Jackson.
Later this month, development partnership SKD Development will break ground on The Meridian, a five-floor Art Deco-style mixed-use complex that will go up on 4.8-acres across Lakeland Drive from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. When complete, sometime in 2016, the $33 million Meridian will offer 240 high-end rental apartments and amenities designed to draw medical professionals, med students and others who want to enjoy the casual Fondren lifestyle.
The Meridian is conceived as the first major private-sector construction that will be part of a hoped-for medical corridor stretching from St. Dominic Hospital on Lakeland Drive west to the Medical Mall on Woodrow Wilson Avenue.
More apartments are going up to the west with a trio of complexes – Taylor Court, Oxford Court and Downing Court – developed by Triangle Development Corp. The company is financing the $18.5 million, 163-unit project partly through the sale of Housing Tax Credits issued by the Mississippi Home Corporation, a state chartered agency that administers and oversees the state’s LowIncome Housing Tax Credit program.
Like The Meridian, the Triangle Development Corp.’s apartments have received a boost from the 2012 Mississippi Medical Zone initiative that, among other goals, encourages construction of affordable housing near hospitals and other medical facilities.
“This is the public sector” element while The Meridian represents a key private sector endeavor, said Scott Spivey, Mississippi Home Corporation executive director.
Fondren is typically described as extending from Woodrow Wilson north to Northside Drive and west from Interstate 55 to the railroad tracks along the north end of West Street.
Fondren boasts around 3,200 homes, but Woodland Hills and its approximately 60 homes is the most widely known residential neighborhood.
Fondren is mostly older homes, but its inventory fits a variety of needs, from starter, to mid-range to high-end, says Tom Potts, a real estate agent with Nix-Tann and Associates. “I know people who are on their fourth home in Fondren,” he adds.
Sales have remained brisk and “prices are coming back,” Potts says. “If you want to be close in, basically you’ve got to be in Fondren and Belhaven.”
Potts is also president of Fondren Renaissance, a community organization created in the mid 1990s to promote Fondren as a business, entertainment and residential destination. The organization is considering having a strategic plan created for Fondren, though the money must be found to pay for it, Pott says.
The plan would make a priority of addressing parking availability, Potts says.
The cost of building a below-ground garage contributed to the decision by developers to back off on plans for a Hampton Inn on what is known as “the green space” on Old Canton, according to Potts.
Potts says his contacts tell him another Fondren location is under consideration for the hotel. “I have heard talk about a second one” as well, he adds.
Mike Peters, who was involved in the Hampton Inn effort, says talk of reviving the hotel project on a new site is news to him.
The Downtown Fondren Historic District, roughly along North State Street, Old Canton Road, Duling Avenue and Fondren Place, won a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in September. Attorney David Pharr helped to fund the process, as did Jason Watkins, a majority partner in the Whitney Place Development Corp.
Pharr also worked to bring the Pix Capri theater back to life. It hosted the TEDxJackon event in November but is not open yet as a full time business, according to Pharr.
The Pix Capri for now “is much more usable for pop-up events than it has been in the past but we’re still working on the final solution for a complete renovation and business model,” he says.
He has additional plans in the works for the North State Street area, he says. “I am part of a group that is working on a mixed use development on State Street, which includes the Pix Capri theater, the older buildings on either side of it, and the raw land behind it,” Pharr said in an email last week.
With its brand new listing on the National Register of Historic Places and all the other activity either under way or about to start, Fondren “is the most exciting area of Jackson at the moment and we are thrilled to be part of the effort to make it even better,” Pharr says.
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