Remember Jackson’s Farish Street?
It’s back in the news with a Chancery Court summary judgment issued Thursday invalidating a $4.7 million lien developer David Watkins put on the buildings along the first block of Farish Street after the Jackson Redevelopment Authority booted him from a stalled effort to remake the block into an entertainment and dining district. The JRA gave Watkins Development the lease on the properties in 2010 but yanked it back in fall 2013, leaving boarded up buildings along both sides of the block.
The order from Chancery Judge Dwayne Thomas also invalidated a construction lien of $322,122 Dale Architect Partners of Jackson placed on the buildings.
Thomas cited case law and statutory exemptions that exclude public properties from property and construction liens by private parties, Watkins Development and Dale Partners argued it is unclear whether the Farish properties are held for a public or proprietary use. Thomas’s 5-page order rejected that argument with a finding that “statutory provisions of the Urban Renewal Law specifically determine that such property is for public use and purpose.”
Watkins’ lawyer Lance Stevens said the Chancery ruling will be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which will decide whether to hear the appeal or send it to the state Court of Appeals.
Watkins, in a statement issued by Stevens’ office, said Thomas’ order fails to address “the JRA’s own breach of contract, their failure to provide a single dime of investment or loans on the property after signing a $10 million loan agreement.”
Further, Watkins said, the Chancery order fails to address the literal language of the lease agreement with the Farish Street Group (a Watkins company) making them part of a profit-making commercial enterprise utterly devoid of any public use, like a police station, school building or a park.
Farish Street has been largely out of the news since last fall, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development suspended the Jackson Redevelopment Authority from participating in HUD-funded projects until further notice. HUD claimed the JRA had not correctly certified the Farish restoration project for eligibility for HUD funding and demanded repayment of the money the agency previously provided to buy the buildings along Farish Street’s first block.
The project is still dormant and likely to stay that way following Jackson Mayor Yarber’s declaration several months ago that the stalled, 15-year project ought to be “parked out back” until a next step can be decided.