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Jackson seeking bids to tear down two dilapidated structures near Convention Center

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Two eyesores near the Jackson Convention Complex could soon be coming down.

The city is advertising for bids to tear down structures at 220 and 226 Pascagoula St.

The two brick buildings are located west of the convention center.

Their broken-out windows, burglar bars, and crumbling roofs stand in stark contrast to the convention center complex, which features large picture windows, sharp edges, and a modern design.

Plants grow inside the building at 220 Pascagoula St., amid debris brought in by the homeless and brought about by the crumbling building itself.(WLBT)

“We’ve been working on this one for two years,” said Planning and Development Director Jordan Hillman. “We did the precinct building last year. Those are larger-dollar projects, as compared to tearing down a single house. So, we have to kind of balance the residential demolition needs with the larger projects.”

The city advertising began for bids on July 14. Sealed bids are due at the City Clerk’s Office on August 22. Hillman hopes to have the building torn down by the end of the year.

The news is already being praised by at least one councilman, who has long voiced his support for the structures being torn down.

“I hope they get some bids because those things need to be taken down,” Council President Ashby Foote said.

City is planning to tear down two dilapidated buildings in the 200 block of Pascagoula Street.
City is planning to tear down two dilapidated buildings in the 200 block of Pascagoula Street.(WLBT)

Up next, he said the city should now repair the convention center parking to make it more welcoming to visitors.

Parking is located on Pascagoula directly across from the center. The roughly 8-acre site is characterized by uneven slabs of concrete and patches of gravel with parking barriers scattered here and there.

That’s because the parking lot is made up of a number of individual properties purchased by the city and the Jackson Redevelopment Authority years ago in preparation for building a convention center hotel there.

Jackson purchased the land using a $7 million loan from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and planned to repay the debt from revenue generated by the new development.

However, plans have never materialized, and early in Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s administration, HUD called on the city to begin repaying the debt.

“We continue to work with HUD and on the challenges associated with the Section 108 loan and have come to positive agreements,” Hillman said. “My hope is by spring we can again request a developer to develop a hotel and parking garage.”

Supporters of the idea say the hotel is needed to generate more business at the convention center.

Due to revenue shortfalls, the center has had to seek additional funding from the city. In February, the city council approved transferring $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the center to help make up a roughly half-a-million-dollar deficit.

Convention Center General Manager Mark Arancibia told WLBT that one way to increase business there is by repaving and repairing the center’s parking lot.

“I’ve probably had three or four multi-day, overnight events that I’ve toured and talked with that want to come here, but the parking… At the end of the day, there are 7,000 spaces in downtown Jackson that can be used on the weekends with the parking garage, but their perception is that they’re far away because they can’t see them.”

Foote echoed Arancibia’s concerns, saying that the current parking situation undermines the work of the convention center and Visit Jackson.

“It’s a terrible first impression people who come to check out the convention center get when we don’t have first-class parking,” Foote said. “We are undermining the efforts of agencies like Visit Jackson and the convention center who are trying to draw people to Jackson when we have broken concrete for people to park on.”

City is planning to tear down two dilapidated buildings in the 200 block of Pascagoula Street.
City is planning to tear down two dilapidated buildings in the 200 block of Pascagoula Street.(WLBT)

The state allocated $1 million for redoing the parking lot as part of the 2022 legislative session. However, Gov. Tate Reeves issued a line-item veto, cutting out the funding.

Even had the money been available, Hillman said it wouldn’t have been as simple as simply paving over the area.

“When you take out a [Section] 108 Loan, it is taken out for a specific purpose. This one was for job generation. We do have to pay the loan back, but we have to deliver on what we promised,” she said. “A surface parking lot doesn’t create jobs.”

Hillman, though, said the city is now working with HUD and its technical assistance team to modify the requirements of its loan so a parking lot could be built. She said even with plans to begin advertising for a hotel developer, repaving is still needed.

“We’re going to want to do a hotel and a structure parking garage to accommodate parking, but the remainder of the property is still available and it likely does need to be [repaved] until it is redeveloped.”

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