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Major property owner on County Line backs improvement district

By JACK WEATHERLY 

One of the major players on County Line Road, metro Jackson’s historically dominant retail center, says it fully endorses the creation of a business improvement district that would encompass stores and property on both sides – in Madison and Hinds counties — of the corridor.

Jonathan Gould, co-manager of New York city-based Stonemar Properties LLC, said in an interview this week that the real estate development firm owns North Regency Square and Center Park, both in Ridgeland and Purple Creek Plaza on the Jackson side.

Center Park’s tenants include Burgers and Blues and Batteries and Bulbs on its roster.

Purple Creek’s anchors are Academy Sports and Toys R Us.

North Regency’s anchor is Pier One and its tenants had included Applebee’s until last fall.

Stonemar had a falling out with a Birmingham-based holder of  60 Applebee’s in five states, including 15 in Mississippi.

The Applebee’s – opened in 1988 and the first of that chain in the state — at County Line and Ridgewood Road shut its doors Sept. 30 because a lease agreement was not reached.

Meantime, Alan Hart, director of economic development for city of Ridgeland, said that Northpark Mall, the other major property owner on County Line has, not thrown its weight behind the formation of a district, which would self-impose fees to provide services such as marketing and security.

Les Morris spokesman for Simon Property Group, owner of Northpark, said he was unfamiliar with the effort to establish a district. He did not respond by publication deadline to emailed questions he had requested.

Ben Allen, director of the Jackson Downtown Partnership and an adviser to the city on the County Line proposal, said that initially Northpark was enthusiastic about it but has cooled to the idea.

Gould said that when he was negotiating a renewal of a lease with Quality Restaurant Concepts LLC, the Applebee’s franchise holder, formation of a district was part part of the pitch.

Gould said that Stonemar had a new roof put on the building at a cost of about $40,000 in a show of good faith and was seeking a 15-year lease.

But eventually the franchise holders reneged on the new deal and refused to renew the existing pact, Gould said, adding that Stonemar has received a lot of interest in the property but, nevertheless, is still open to reach an agreement with its former tenant.

Hart, the city of Ridgeland economic development chief, said that Stonemar’s position on the proprosed district is a surprise to him. As recently as September, he had told the Mississippi Business Journal reluctance by big property owners had stalled the effort.

A 75-page survey completed in 2014 to form a district suggests a voluntary fee on commercial property along the street that would raise between $1.2 million and $3.5 million annually.

How the revenue would be used hasn’t been decided, because the district has not been formed.

That would take a 60 percent approval from the stakeholders – owners of land and buildings – who would comprise the district, as required by state law.

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