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Slater Thompson, a Pickering Firm employee, sets up to survey land at former Colonial Country Club./JACK WEATHERLY/MBJ

Colonial Highlands still awaits turning of dirt for apartments

By JACK WEATHERLY
jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com

Nearly three years ago, the city of Jackson approved a plan to redevelop the former 152-acre Colonial Country Club, but dirt has not been turned on the project.

Arlington Properties of Birmingham said last August that it planned to build a 220-unit apartment complex on the property as the first phase of the mixed-use, traditional neighborhood development.

Arlington has engaged the Pickering Firm to do surveying for the apartments, which would be part of a 660-unit — primarily free-standing  residences — with with retail center including a grocery store and fitness center. The overall project’s price tag has been put at $250 million.

Dave Ellis, vice president of development for Arlington, told the Mississippi Business Journal this week that he would not have a comment on the status of the project for about another six weeks.

Asked if that meant that the project might be shelved, Ellis said, “You never know till it closes.”

Investors doing business as Colonial Jackson LLC bought the former golf course on Old Canton Road and after a false start because of neighborhood protests on the first plan, by which the developers had sought to have the city change its zoning code to allow certain commercial development without public hearings.

The investors revamped their plan and got city approval and backing from residents in the area of northeast Jackson. The former golf course has been called the last place for a major residential development in the city, which has been losing population to neighboring towns for years.

The investment group has had its own internal shakeup in the meantime, but Arlington is working with the group. Efforts seeking to contact the group this week were not successful.

Surveyors from the Pickering Firm were recently shooting boundaries on the property for Arlington.

Arlington is making its presence felt in Jackson. It built and was majority owner of the 261-unit District Lofts at the District at Eastover, opening it in mid-2017. But in September 2018, the Birmingham developer sold the complex to Passco Cos. LLC, an Irvine, Calif., private commercial real estate investor. Arlington is still managing the Lofts.

Brian Estes, head of the Estes Group, who is not involved in the development, said that he is not privy to the goings-on at Colonial Highlands, but he thinks it is “a good sign” that Pickering has done some work on the property.

Arlington’s Ellis said last year that “there is excess demand for luxury rental housing in Jackson.”

Estes noted that Arlington sold the District Lofts for “a very high price,” which would give the Birmingham developer working capital.

Multifamilynews.com reported that the Passco secured a loan for $30.6 million, though Breck Hines, who, with Ted Duckworth, developed the District at Eastover, said the price was higher. The reporter for the news outfit said in an email to the Journal that the sales price was not revealed.

Estes was at a loss to explain specifically why the project is dragging out in a generally strong economy.

One factor, Estes said in a column published by the Journal, is that “material and labor shortage has greatly impacted both the costs and timing of new development.”

“A lot of projects are dragging behind. [Contractors] are just busy,” Estes said in an interview.

“There were a lot of naysayers about the District at Eastover,” Estes said. Efforts to redevelop the former site of the Mississippi School for the Blind floundered for years because of legal disputes with the state and other issues.

Aside from the Lofts at Eastover and The Meridian at Fondren on Lakeland Drive across from the University of Mississippi Medical School, no major upscale apartment complexes have been built in the city in recent years.

“Jackson needs a win,” Estes said.

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About Jack Weatherly