By JACK WEATHERLY
East Capitol Street had been left out of the downtown revival. The west end of the street has drawn all the attention and capital.
“This end of Capitol hasn’t gotten any attention,” said E. J. “Kip” Gibert of Metairie, La., who bought the six-story Heritage Building at 401 E. Capitol in the fall of 2016 along with three smaller buildings on that side of the street.
Gibert (pronounced gee-bear) said he bought a half-dozen buildings across the street last month to improve them because he sees them as an impediment to development.
He expects that work on all the buildings will be completed by the end of the year and that the investment will range from $5 million to $10 million.
The Heritage, as the name suggests, has a lot of history in its bricks and mortar.
Built in 1904 for Jones Dry Goods and with later expansions for Jones-Kennington Department Store and then McRae’s Department Store, the 95,000-square-foot structure is undergoing an overhaul, as reported by the Mississippi Business Journal earlier – new elevators, heating and cooling systems, a new roof and renovation of restrooms.
In the same block, three smaller buildings – two of which are the former homes of Deville Camera and ASAP Printing – are undergoing changes. One two-story structure will get two more floors and will accommodate four apartments – ranging from 575 square feet to 750 square feet.
Another will give up space for a two-story courtyard, which will be an ambient light source for the building on the east and also the Heritage.
Gibert bought five buildings across the street and another facing President Street behind them last month.
Jeff Speed, president of Speed Commercial Real Estate, said he would “clean out” those buildings and put new roofs on them, “just to not have them boarded up.”
Speed, who has a longtime management relationship with Gibert, said several “really good” potential retail tenants have showed interest in that side of the street.
“I think we’re on the verge here of finally turning the corner” in downtown Jackson, Speed said. Gibert owns commercial properties on the Mississippi Coast, metro Jackson and elsewhere.
Gibert has gotten an approval for eligibility for historic tax credits for the buildings on the south side of Capitol from the state Department of Archives and History and the U.S. Interior Department, though they would not be received until final approval after the work is completed. The six buildings on the north side of Capitol do not qualify for the credits, he said.
On west Capitol at its intersection with Mills Street at the Union Station, the $10.4 million Capitol Arts Lofts project across from the historic King Edward Hotel (operated under the Hilton Garden Inn flag) is accepting tenants.
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