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Eastover development’s impact depends on popularity, accessibility

One of the many enduring lessons from The Great Recession is that home values are more vulnerable to a plunge than they were thought to be.

Two of Jackson’s more affluent neighborhoods — Eastover and Fondren — are a testament to that.

Two Realtors who do business in each told the Mississippi Business Journal that a new mixed-use development whose first phase could open in fall 2013 could theoretically help property values get back to where they were before the real estate meltdown.

Jackson-based developer Ted Duckworth has spent nearly five years working on the District at Eastover, a $110-million, 400,000-square-foot lifestyle center with retail, residential and office space. Duckworth is under contract with the state to purchase the 20 acres on the site of the Old Blind School, which abuts Eastover and sits across Interstate 55 from Fondren. The site is a 10-minute drive from downtown Jackson.

“If you look at the history of (Atlanta’s) Buckhead, East Memphis and places like that, everybody wants the convenience of the city,” said Denise Furr, a Realtor with Donald Cooper Realty in Jackson. “But when you start (taking away) special amenities then the whole idea of suburbia looks wonderful. But when you pull it all back in, it’s where a lot of people want to be. It makes life simpler. It makes it more convenient.”

Furr estimated the Eastover development could bump home values up between 10 percent and 15 percent.

“We’ve lost that (during the recession),” she said. “Between the (District) and hopefully the growth of the economy, we should get that back. Something like that is going to do huge things for this area, and not just this area. It could span farther than that. We have a lot of (older homes) in Jackson. People are doing a lot of renovating and adding-on, and there’s some new construction. When you have a new complex like that, I think it could do for our area what Renaissance has done for Ridgeland.

“It depends on what tenants (Duckworth) gets. I really think he’s looking for niche retail shops, like the specialty grocery store.”

Duckworth told the MBJ in September that his retail targets will be a mix of locally owned shops and niche national chains that are not already in the Metro Jackson market.

The popularity of those retail tenants could be the difference between the development having a significant impact on area home values, or having a nominal one, said Realtor Traci Maloney.

“If it’s done right, I think it can have a positive effect,” said Maloney, who owns Traci Maloney Real Estate. “What I would compare it to is the Highland Park area in Dallas, where it blends into the neighborhood instead of sticking out. Hopefully we won’t have any 10-story buildings. If it’s done appropriately, it could enhance property values and enhance the area overall.”

Maloney said it’s more likely the most immediate effect the District will have on the area has nothing to do with a home’s selling price: time on the market. Instead of a home occupying the market for six months, it could potentially sell within 30 to 60 days.

“It could make somebody want to choose that location instead of another,” she said. “A house could sell quicker because of that. Over time, you could see an increase in value. Initially, though, it will be more of a desirability thing.”

Furr and Maloney both said the District being accessible by bike trail and/or walking path would be huge selling points. Duckworth said that is part of the plan for the development, though not immediately.

Furr said she had already mentioned the development to clients looking to buy in the area, but had not used it as one of her primary selling points, and wouldn’t until closer to construction time on the first phase. Maloney said she would most likely wait until work started on it, or at least got closer than it is now to starting, before bringing it up at all.

“It’s so new and doesn’t seem real concrete yet,” Maloney said. “When you start to see ground breaking, that’s when I would use it as a tool to promote the area. You don’t want to promise something that ultimately won’t be there.”

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