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Consensus-building fares well for Colonial redevelopment

Rendering-img015_feature_rgbBy JACK WEATHERLY 

Every misstep made by developers early this year appears to have become a stepping-stone toward winning the support of northeast Jackson residents for a proposal to turn the old Colonial Country Club into an upscale village.

The area was in an “non-armed revolt” early in the year toward Colonial Jackson LLC’s effort to redevelop the 150-acre site in some unspecified manner, said Larry McKay, president of the Lake Trace Homeowners Association.

McKay said that after the developers’ false start, listening to architect Steve Oubre’ at several meetings was a “breath of fresh air.” McKay, 70, is a retired radiation biologist who lives nearby off Pear Orchard Road.

Earlier, the developers had sought to have the city change its zoning code to allow mixed-use development on land zoned special use, such as golf courses and parks across the city. That would have allowed commercial development in those lands without public hearings.

But a showdown with a standing-room-only meeting convinced the council members that was not a good idea to pursue.

This time, the developers have had at least three meetings with residents and have met with Mayor Tony Yarber and other city officials in developing a plan.

Residents are even having a say in the name of the development.

Current favorite: Colonial Highlands.

Said Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote: “It’s one thing to have a concept and another to actually execute it and deliver it.”

“Hopefully, they’ll find investors that see it as the opportunity that it can be,” said Foote, who is chief investment officer for Vector Money Management Inc.

Mortgage rates are still near an all-time low, which is encouraging from the buy side of the equation, he said.

The developers have made a “quantum leap” in diplomacy, he said, adding that he was very favorably impressed, and hopes that it could give the area the same impetus that has been seen “communities reinventing themselves, like Fondren and Belhaven.”

“I think they are doing a lot of the right things to reach out to the communities,” he said.

Bob Gilchrist, an outspoken member of the Colonial Homeowners Association, was instrumental in rallying area residents to confront the developers back in March.

And he has objections to the current plan that is under consideration.

“I think they’re heading in the right direction, but they want to put a large commercial development in the neighborhood,” Gilchrist said.

“That’s the last thing the neighborhood wants.”

Oubre’ has presented the development as a walkable town concept in the New Urban mode.

The plan calls for 600 living units – the majority of which would be free-standing houses.

Oubre’ said the plan currently does call for 18,000 square feet of retail and office space below loft apartments, in addition to a 35,000-square-foot grocery.

The retail space would be across the street from existing houses on Parkway Drive. Gilchrist, who owns two houses across from the planned retail/residential space, says he is concerned that it and increased traffic could hurt property value.

Yet Oubre’ said that at least 15 people came up to him after the third public meeting, on Oct. 18, which drew about 100 in the old clubhouse wanting to know how soon the project could be started.

“There was overwhelming support from the majority in attendance,” he said.

Here is the current breakdown of the residences:

» 58 condos averaging 1,400 square feet, with a weighted average of $286,000.

» 120 rental units built to higher standards so they can be sold.

» 60 Courtyard cottages, 1,150 square feet to 1,250 square feet, weighted average sales price $208,000.

» 80 neighborhood cottages, 1,350 square feet to 1,750 square feet, weighted average $269,000.

» 68 side-yard houses, 1,600 to 2,100 square feet, weighted price $317,250.

» 60 courtyard houses, 2,000 to 2,300, weighted average $396,250.

» 60 neighborhood houses 2,200 to 2,700, weighted price $455,500.

» 40 estate houses, 2,600 to 3,500, weighted price $643,750.

It is not feasible to keep the old clubhouse, so it will be razed, though its pool will be revamped and used as a lap pool to go with a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot fitness center, Oubre’ said.

The existing pond in the center of the old golf course will be kept and become a three-acre park, he said.

Assisted-living space has been discussed, but it would count as multifamily space allotted for apartments, Oubre’ said.

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About Jack Weatherly

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