Hinds County’s decision to back out of the Old Capitol Green development jeopardizes the project, the developer says.
But New York-based Full Spectrum isn’t saying the project won’t move forward without the county.
“This unexpected action by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors jeopardizes approximately $52 million of private investment in the city of Jackson committed by Full Spectrum’s investors, as well as the pre-commitments (letters of interest) for retail and office tenants who, prior to this action by the county, had committed to 94 percent of the office and 96 percent of the retail. Those commitments include new and expanded retail business, and cultural businesses in downtown Jackson and a commitment from the GSA to move new jobs to downtown Jackson,” a statement by Full Spectrum says.
The only tenants Full Spectrum has named for the proposed project are Ojah Media Group, headed by Grammy-winning jazz singer and Jackson native Cassandra Wilson; a second E&L Barbeque restaurant joining the location on Bailey Avenue; and Petropolis upscale pet center.
Last week, Hinds supervisors voted against continuing with the county’s involvement in the first phase of the proposed $1 billion project to revitalize downtown Jackson.
In the face of looming questions over the project’s economic viability, county supervisors voted 3-1 on July 16 to bow out. But just a few months earlier, in May, the board had agreed to send a letter to the Mississippi Development Authority seeking $17 million in bonds from the state for a 450-space parking garage.
The parking garage was slated to be part of the first phase of an mixed-use residential, retail and office space project. The development would span 13 blocks along Commerce Street between Pearl and Silas Brown streets.
Full Spectrum South wanted the county to seek the full $17 million in MDA bonds because an official said it would be more cost efficient to have one loan instead of two.
MDA had agreed to forward up to $20 million in bonds in a 20-year loan to the builder of the garage.
Supervisors stipulated then that the letter would be sent only if Full Spectrum South provided the county with financial details on the project that has been repeatedly requested.
Financial information from Full Spectrum South was received, but supervisors believe putting the county on the line for the bond money wasn’t in its best interests, Supervisor Phil Fisher said last week.
“Our downtown parking garage occupancy is only 50 percent anyway,” Fisher said. “And, we’ve been unable to confirm an anchor tenant for the development.”
Hinds County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Blake Wallace has said he recommended to board members they should not take part in financing the project.
Full Spectrum South said in the statement that it is perplexed as to why the Board of Supervisors would refuse to approve a development deal for the city of Jackson that would create 1,696 temporary construction jobs, 426 new permanent jobs and generate $42 million over a 20-year period in ad valorem, sales and school taxes, at no risk to the county.
“The city and the county need this and other catalytic developments like Old Capitol Green to grow the tax base and bring the middle class back to Jackson. It is good not only for the city, but for the region,” said Malcolm Shepherd, Full Spectrum South Development director.
Jackson Redevelopment Authority Vice Chairman John Reeves said the county pulling out does not necessarily kill the project.
“The developer could request the JRA and city to back bonds for a garage or may obtain private financing for it,” Reeves said. “Either way, the developer would have to prove viability. That is, the developer would have to convince the JRA and the city or a private lender that a garage would yield enough revenue to pay the debt. At this point, I think the best that can be said is that the future of (the) Old Capitol Green project is uncertain.”
On June 29, Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. sent a letter to the president of the Board of Supervisors, stating that JRA had agreed to purchase the garage from Full Spectrum and Hinds County at the end of the seven-year new market tax credit.
Written by Jimmie E. Gates | Clarion Ledger