Home » MBJ FEATURE » Colonial Highlands project clothed in silence

Colonial Highlands project clothed in silence

By JACK WEATHERLY

The former managing partner in the $250 million plan to build a mixed-use community on the former 152-acre Colonial Country Club property in Jackson is no longer involved in the effort.

Bo Lockard recently referred the Mississippi Business Journal to Luke Guarisco, whom he said was an original investor in the project.

Numerous calls over several weeks to Guarisco to a number provided by Lockard were not returned.

A Luke Guarisco is listed on the Internet as a principal investor in Guarisco Property Management in Baton Rouge.

Likewise, numerous subsequent calls to Lockard to get an explanation of the change in investors were not returned.

Numerous calls to two new real estate firms, making the total at least four since the property went on the market in 2016, were not returned, though the Journal did talk briefly with Chad Rigby of Rigby Advisors. The other real estate firm is the McEnery Co.

Beyond saying “we have property for sale” and “we’ve gotten lots of calls,” Rigby said he would send Guarisco an email asking him to contact the newspaper. The Journal did not receive a response from Guarisco by publication deadline.

The investment group initially enlisted Speed Commercial Real Estate to market the property, then CBRE.

Lockard said last March that things had not gone as fast as he had hoped.

“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 components proper to do what we’ve been approved to do.”

The city of Jackson approved a Traditional Neighborhood Development master plan, calling for 636 living units, most of which will be free-standing homes, along with attached homes as well as apartments for sale or lease.

The project got city Planning Board approval in February 2016 and the City Council stamp of approval two months later as a traditional neighborhood, a change from from special use, which is reserved for golf course, parks, churches and other community assets.

The  initial effort by the developers in early 2015 to move forward with a plan was a cause for bad blood and suspicion.

The developers 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 public hearings.

But at a showdown at City Hall with an angry standing-room-only crowd of residents convinced the council members that was not a good idea to pursue. The developers dropped that approach.

The developers had several public meetings later in the year with residents and met with then-Mayor Tony Yarber and other city officials in developing a plan.

The group, Colonial Jackson LLC, enlisted Steven Oubre’ of Lafayette, La., a noted new urbanism architect, to oversee the design.

Meetings with Oubre’ and others in the project team won over the neighborhood associations that had strongly opposed the original concept and approach.

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