By JACK WEATHERLY
Downtown Jackson’s first “parklet” has been well received.
And so the city may move forward with another, according to Travis Crabtree, urban designer for the city.
The parklet — wooden benches and planters and spaces for small lightweight tables and chairs — occupies what had been parking spaces on the east side of Congress Street in front of the Plaza Building.
In September, the city installed the cedar elements, using a $15,000 grant from the AARP as well as $1,500 from Entergy Mississippi and $500 from Downtown Jackson Partners. No city money was used.
“It’s a six-month sort of trial, but based on the positive response, we feel like it it’s semi-permanent,” Crabtree said Tuesday.
Michael Laskin, owner of Basil’s restaurant in the Plaza Building, said, “We’re pleased as punch. We hope it’s a permanent thing.”
Jimmy Kitchens, who manages the Plaza Building, said that “everything I’ve heard has been very positive.”
The 11-story art deco building includes offices and 14 apartments as well as two restaurants on the ground floor, Basil’s and Keifer’s.
Sweetie Pie’s is working with the city to open a soul-food restaurant in the Plaza Building space formerly occupied by La Finestra, which closed three years ago.
Downtown is undergoing a decade-long effort to reinvent itself – as a mixed use area with apartments, retailers and restaurants. More than a quarter of a billion dollars has been invested by the private sector, and three times that much in the public sector.
“Sweetie Pie’s” will bring with it the panache of television exposure. It was a popular reality show on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
It will be the fourth restaurant in the soul-food chain. There are two in St. Louis and one in Houston.
Crabtree says if the final conclusion is that the parklet has been successful, another may be installed around the corner on the north side of Capitol Street.
The city is working with Metairie, La., developer Kip Gilbert, who is renovating the Heritage Building on smaller buildings along side it on the south side of Capitol, including putting in more apartments.
He bought several vacant buildings on the opposite side of Capitol and is reclaiming them to be offered as retail space.
Crabtree said the parklets are part of what he calls “tactical urbanism,” which will be unveiled in the future, though he would not say what the term means in this case.
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