The second of Jackson developer David Watkins’ downtown renovation projects is still on track to meet its target completion date.
Brad Franklin, director of entertainment for Watkins Partners, said last week that the 21-story historic Standard Life office building that will feature retail, restaurant, office and residential space will open near the end of this year.
“Everything’s on time with that,” Franklin said.
The Standard Life building is the second project Watkins has undertaken to make over downtown Jackson.
The adjacent King Edward Hotel, which sat vacant for four decades, opened late last year. The King Edward features a Hilton Garden Inn, retail and restaurant space and luxury apartments.
About six months ago, Watkins unveiled his latest downtown undertaking — Riverwalk and Town Lake, an ambitious project that would feature a mile-long, concrete-lined canal that would start at Farish Street and snake through the Central Business District before ending at Court Street, where it would empty into a 35-acre lake that connected to the Pearl River.
Watkins, who did not return messages left on his cell phone, said in early spring that he hoped to have all the preliminary work on Riverwalk finished by early summer so he could turn it over to the City of Jackson and the Jackson Redevelopment Authority. Watkins said then that the city’s involvement in the project was “non-negotiable” since part of the cost – estimated three months ago at between $200 million and $300 million – would have to be defrayed by public money, most likely in the form of bonds. Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. has said he supports the project.
The transition to the city has not happened yet, but Franklin said prep work for Riverwalk is still moving.
“There are a couple of things that have to fall in place before we can get started on it. There’s no movement on it at this time, but the plan as (Watkins) has presented it is still in the works.”
Watkins has enlisted the help of several engineering and architectural firms in Jackson to help with Riverwalk.
“We’re actually still in that process,” Franklin said. “We do have some things drawn up and we do have some renderings. We know the direction we want to go; we just haven’t started moving yet. It’s a tedious process.”
Once Watkins and his team have something firm to present, they plan to hold a series of public hearings on the matter.
“We haven’t gotten to the point to where we can present something to the public (for hearings) yet,” Franklin said. “We want to make sure everything’s correct, and that we’ve done all our research before we do that and start getting input from the public about it. There will be several opportunities for the public to participate in the process and voice their opinion on it. It’s on track. It’s just going to take a little time.”
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