By JACK WEATHERLY
It’s taken longer for the Colonial Highlands traditional neighborhood project to gain traction than anticipated, Bo Lockard said in an interview last week.
Lockard, managing partner of Colonial Jackson LLC, sought to clear the air on the project in northeast Jackson expected to cost $250 million.
In recent months, Lockard, other partners and local brokers had not returned numerous calls from the Mississippi Business Journal.
But Lockard said, “We’re not hiding or running.”
“We’d rather go slow and very methodically, than willy-nilly. And if that takes another month, six months or a year, we’re going to continue to push that ball until we get all of components proper to do what we’ve been approved to do.”
He conceded that things had not gone as fast as they had hoped. Last July, he said in an interview that “we are working toward negotiating contracts by the end of the summer.”
Lockard said the group is is sticking with Traditional Neighborhood Development master plan approved by the city, which calls for 636 living units, most of which will be free-standing homes, along with attached homes as well as apartments for sale or lease.
“We’re the master planning guys. We buy and repurpose dirt,” he said. “We’re not speculative builders.”
The group is trying to line up builders and must work within those companies’ lineup of projects, and that means waiting to see how that can be worked out, he said.
“It’s a big project with a lot of parts.”
Talks of more than a year with Walmart about putting in a Neighborhood Market store looked promising, but fell through as the giant retailer started cutting back on expansion.
So, Lockard said, the group is talking with other grocers and retailers for the commercial aspect of the project.
Of the recent interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, he said: “It’s more about the demand than it is the rate.”
An extensive study by Zimmerman/Volk Associates Inc. of Clinton, N.J. filed with the master plan found that the living units could be sold, or in the case of some apartments, leased, in a six-year period.
Lockard, who is based in Shreveport, La., called the project a boon to property values in the vicinity and tax coffers for the city and county.
The opportunity presented itself when the Colonial Country Club closed in 2014, and Lockard and associates bought the property.
The Zimmerman/Volk study says the plan is “a rare infill opportunity” that “has the potential to attract target households that are relatively affluent.”
The effort to redevelop the 152-acre plot had a stormy beginning.
Initially, in 2015, the group sought to have the city change its zoning code to allow mixed-use development on land zoned for special use, such as parks, hospitals, churches and golf courses. That would have allowed commercial development in those lands without pubic hearings.
But that approach was dropped after a showdown at City Hall when an angry crowd of area residents convinced the City Council that was not a good approach.