More Time

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Developers get nine more months to decide on center

Developers have roughly three months to decide if it will lease some 130 acres of airport property to build a $165 million mixed-use project in Flowood.

The property is owned by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA).

Freedom Real Estate was granted an option to lease the property late 2015, and was granted an extension on the option to lease earlier this year. The firm has to decide by November if it will lease the property, which is located near the corner of Airport Road and Lakeland Drive.

The Louisiana-based firm is eyeing the site to build the Pinelands Lifestyle Center, a 350,000 to 500,000-square-foot shopping center.

JMAA Chief Executive Officer Carl Newman said the extension was needed so developers could do an environmental assessment of the site.

The nine-month extension was granted in February and is the second nine-month extension given to the firm.

Newman didn’t say if a third extension would be granted and is still confident developers are coming to the area, pending results of the environmental assessment.

“They (the developers) are taking a look and determining if any of the land is part of a wetland, and if it is, what needs to be done to mitigate the issue,” he said.

Any development affecting wetlands must be signed off on by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

If wetlands are destroyed, developers must build new wetlands elsewhere or purchase wetlands credits from a development bank.

Newman expects the environmental assessments to wrap up by November. He still speaks with developers every few weeks and believes the project is going to moving forward. “I’m not anticipating any show-stoppers out there,” he said.

 

JMAA was approached by Freedom in 2015. In December of that year, the authority gave the firm a 270-day option to lease the property. The option was supposed to end last September.

The property includes approximately 130 acres along Airport Road behind the shopping center that includes the United Artists movie theater.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) had awarded developers up to $48.75 million in “cultural retail attraction,” or CRA, credits to help finance the project.

The credits are part of a now-defunct law that gave tax subsidies to developers to help finance shopping centers. Under the law, developers are awarded up to 30 percent of a project’s total cost through the sales taxes generated from it.

Another shopping center in Rankin County, the Outlets of Pearl, also received tax subsidies.

The Pinelands was approved for rebates in the spring of 2014, months before legislation repealing the CRA law went into effect.

To be eligible for the subsidies, construction on a project must be completed within two years. However, additional time for projects can be granted at the discretion of MDA’s executive director.

Pinelands was given a 48-month extension in January 2016, meaning construction must be finished by January 2020 to qualify for the rebates, MDA spokesman Jeff Rent previously told the Sun.

No lease had been finalized at press time. However, any agreement would be for 40 years and funds from it would go into JMAA’s general fund.

JMAA owns more than 3,300 acres of land around the Jackson-Evers airport. Between 1,000 and 1,200 acres are in the Jackson city limits, while another 2,100 or so are owned by the city but located in other municipalities.

Freedom was founded in 2014. Officers for the organization include Ron Harvey of Columbia,  and Ronald Harvey Jr. of Slidell, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Web site.

No further information on the shopping center was available. The Sun called Freedom’s Slidell offices, but was unable to leave a message.

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