By JACK WEATHERLY
After 11 years as president of Downtown Jackson Partners, Ben Allen will retire on Sept. 30, leaving behind a record of major development in Mississippi’s largest central business district.
“Ben’s commitment to the success of Downtown Jackson cannot be overstated,” Steve Davis, chairman of the DJP board of directors, said in a release.
“His leadership has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in new projects that have transformed Downtown into a place that has attracted many new businesses and hundreds of new residents.”
Allen, who had been a city council member for 10 years before he took the reins of DJP in 2007, said in the release:
“I am so proud to have had the opportunity to be part of an organization that has been instrumental in transforming downtown into a premier district for business, government and residential living.
“The real credit goes to all those dedicated men and women who continue to see the potential of Mississippi’s largest, most progressive Downtown area,” said Allen, 67.
Since Allen became president of DJP, Downtown has seen many new public and private developments totaling nearly $1 billion, the organization states.
Slightly more than one-quarter of that amount came from the private sector, aided by government tax incentives and loans.
Allen’s tenure operated under a cloud for several years after he was charged with embezzlement from the partnership.
However, he was found innocent on nine of 10 charges and he drew a five-year suspended sentence and two years’ probation on the remaining charge.
“Of course, an appeal has been applied for,” but the wheels of justice turn slowly, “It hasn’t even been assigned to a judge, for crying out loud.”
Allen said the whole matter, which surfaced in 2014 and was adjudicated last year, was “total b******t.”
The organization’s board has expressed full confidence in Allen.
Historical buildings have been converted into apartments. King Edward Hotel – abandoned for decades – was renovated and houses the Hilton Garden Inn and the King Edward Apartments.
The Jackson Westin, a ground-up project, opened Aug. 3, 2017 and added its 203 guest rooms to the total in downtown to more than 700, including the King Edward Hotel, which was resurrected after years of of abandonment and decay.
The old Standard Life Building became the Standard Life Flats.
Seven historical buildings across Capitol Street from the King Edward have been converted into 31 apartments, called the Capitol Art Lofts, bringing the total of new dwelling units to about 350 downtown. Several hundred more apartments are in various stages of development.
The partnership took the leading role in revamping Smith Park, a historic green space.
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