Saturday, August 1, 2009

Great article about Downtown Jackson living in today's C-L

One of my neighbors, Michael Rejebian, penned a guest column on Downtown Jackson life for today's Clarion-Ledger. If you live in Mississippi, or used to, take a minute and read what Michael has to say about living in Downtown Jackson. I imagine it'd be an eye-opener for a lot of you.


Anonymous said...

What is the point Matt? A smattering of folks, including yourself, like living downtown. So what? Is there a larger message?

Julie said...

Ok, good opportunity here to explain. Matt, I'll let you respond first, since you were asked. But I'm here for backup...:)

Matt Eichelberger said...

There are people who like living downtown. That, Anon, is a pretty big message, I would think.

Jim Craig said...

Also, Matt, the downtowners believe they are safe, which is a huge point that couldn't be made not long ago.

Next step: more retail shopping downtown. It is the key to revitalization of a city center.

Anonymous said...

Can y'all wrap some quantitative measures around all of this because without a scorecard the notion of downtown success is personal subjective hype.

Matt Eichelberger said...

Anon, I'll get some stuff together and post it as soon as I can. Stuck in court today.

Julie said...

Anon, imperically, downtown revitalization of a city benefits everyone. (I'm pulling some articles/case studies I'll post.) And, in order for downtown revitalization to occur, you need to have people living, working, and playing all within a walkable distance. The article shows that we have a small, but growing number. So it's evidence that it's happening.

Also, statistically, in a given metropolitan area, about 10% of the population would live in an urban (i.e., downtown) environment, if the units existed. The fact that a number of us (myself included) do live here, and that there are waitlists for the existing units, shows that we are no different, so it shows that we have a real opportunity for even more development. Currently, within the Central Business District, we have about 200 residents (our neighborhood association's borders are larger than that, so we might have twice that number, but still not near the 10% of the metro's population). As we have 64 new residentces come online in December with the King Edward, we'll keep moving towards it, but it's all just evidence that we are making real progress.

And the REAL larger message is that having all of this will help us to recruit and retain talented, smart, creative young adults that are vital to our city (and state)'s future by showing them that they don't have to leave and go to Memphis, Birmigham, Atlanta, etc., to have the type of lifestyle they want. We can (and do!) have it here!

I'll post some more qualitative numbers (and apparently, so will Matt) in a bit.

Julie said...

Ok, Anon. Here's what I've gathered just very quickly. The stats are from last year, but I've requested updated ones, so I'll share those when I get them.

Like I said earlier, there are probably approximately 200 residents currently living in the Business Improvement District (which is a 66-block area of downtown). We know that it will support 2000.

Each week, over 1000 businesses receive the downtown Jackson weekly e-newsletter.

31% of Jackson's workforce is in the coveted "Creative Class" (google it if you're not familiar), and that percentage will continue to grow. Recruiting these folks is a goal for cities committed to progress and growth.

Last year's numbers: $3 billion invested in current downtown developments encompassing 46 projects, 17 of which were (are) mixed-use developments, with an additional $1.5 billion towards planned/proposed ones.

Downtown Jackson hosts 20 annual events, festivals, parades, etc. and has over 30 restaurants (with more popping up every week, it seems).

Hope some of that helps.

Anonymous said...

Anon, imperically, downtown revitalization of a city benefits everyone.

PLEASE. Give us something real and not those same old tired talking points that are long on hype but bereft any hard financial commitments.

What minimum amount of direct tax revenue to the Jackson treasury will be contributed and by what year? If you can't provide Jackson taxpayers with an expectation what the return on investment will be, and when it will arrive, then no amount of that pie-in-the-sky stuff matters when they have crater-sized holes in the streets of their neighborhoods, insufficient staffing of our public safety organizations and a water/sewage system collapsing underground.

There has never been an advisory referendum in Jackson where the public agreed to invest tax dollars almost exclusively downtown chasing this creative class theory at the expense of the rest of the city.

Forget qualitative because it doesn't pay the bills. It is high time for the downtown effort to put a stake in the ground and state definitively how much it will deliver to Jackson's bottom line and when the money is going to arrive.

Julie said...

Honest question: when you refer to a proposal in which "the public agreed to invest tax dollars almost exclusively downtown chasing this creative class theory at the expense of the rest of the city," are you talking about their tax dollars in general--property taxes, car tags, etc.? Or about, like, the $.02 tax or whatever it is that's going towards the convention complex? I just want to be clear.

And what about the development being done downtown (or in Fondren, or any other area) by private developers? That's not taking money away from paving streets or infrastructure; those are private investors. Sure, they're getting tax credits and other incentives, but that's not unusual. And yes, infrastructure is a big issue--heck, it is for the developers, too. But I just don't see how naysaying existing projects helps. I mean, won't the King Edward bring in people from out of town who will pay taxes and spend money while they're here? (I know; this is not a specific number. I'm not a developer; I don't have it. I can ask someone, though. Or you can.) And when we have new private developments, like that (vs. government properties), they pay taxes, too. We, as a city, lose HUGE amounts of money because of all the government buildings here. Plus, we have to maintain highways--51, when it crosses into Hinds County, and...another one, too; I forget. It's a problem. And one that, if we could solve, would give us more money for the infrastructure you mention.

I'll have to ask some folks for some info and get back to you, but I think I can get some information on a city that did invest specifically in downtown (not exclusively, but a certain percentage of its bed fund its convention center).

I'll look into your other questions, too, although it may take a little while, and someone else might can respond more quickly. (I have to do my day job!) But I actually appreciate you giving me a reason to ask and find out, because it's good to know. Nonetheless, I still don't think it's pie in the sky to say that a vibrant downtown is key to a city's life. Maybe we just agree to disagree, and that's fine...I still hope you come downtown and visit us.

Matt Eichelberger said...

Thanks for the responses, Julie. My day job's eating my lunch today! I'll leave the remaining issues up to you as well, Julie.

Anonymous said...

The City of Jackson whines about the loss of tax revenue because of the State owned buildings.

But it is Jackson's fault for not capitalizing on those buildings.

Those people eat downtown. Jackson needs to give them shopping there as well. Tax dollars staying in Jackson instead of being spent just across the Pearl during the commute home. Is there any place to buy clothes that are not custom made/mtm downtown? What about an Office Depot? Mixed use development is critical.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Julie said...

As for Jackson "not capitalizing" on those's beginning to; that's sort of the point of this article. We have new restaurants opening up all the time (just recently, the new Caribbean place, a donut shop is about to open, Underground 119 is opening next week, there's another new restaurant coming this winter)...and, like Anon@8:52 says, the residential component, i.e., making this 24/7 neighborhood, is what will help make that "capitalization" happen with retail. We have to first make it a place that people LIVE, work, and play in order to ensure that retail establishments thrive.

As you'd probably guess, I'm not going to be a huge proponent of a big box like Office Depot; I'd rather buy local, and there are some good local print shops downtown now. But to respond to your point, chains like that look at LEAST three or so years out in their planning. This means we need to build up the residential component first so that we can then demonstrate to them, for instance, "Hey, CVS, we have 1200 people living down here and they say they would patronize a 24-hour pharmacy that they could walk to, and that's in addition to the 29,000 people who work downtown, so you should really look at coming here."

That's the "larger message" of this, and what the residents can help make happen.

And of COURSE, mixed use development is critical, which is what's here and continues to happen. Cases in point: Plaza Building--Restaurants on street level, offices in the middle, residential units on the top floors. King Edward--hotel, plus residential units. Standard Life Building--also mixed use (I think it'll have some retail and/or restaurant(s) in addition to office space plus residential). Tombigbee Lofts--one side (the warehouse) is all residential, but the other side is offices on the bottom, residential on top. Mart Lamar's property--residential units, plus the shoe repair shop. Heck, even Hal & Mal's is mixed use--there's a residence upstairs there! Dickie's Building includes both residences and an artist's studio. Electric 308--coffee shop, offices, residences on top. So...yes, mixed use is important. But more importantly, it's already here and there are plans for more of it.

Julie said...

Sorry; Underground 119 is opening later this MONTH, not next week.

Anonymous said...

Jim/Matt. What is with the personal attacks from anon@8:52?

Matt Eichelberger said...

Anon @ 10:38 - It's been deleted.

All - I expect and welcome spirited debate here on serious issues. I won't tolerate abusive language, though. Carry on.

Kingfish said...

"Hey, CVS, we have 1200 people living down here and they say they would patronize a 24-hour pharmacy that they could walk to, and that's in addition to the 29,000 people who work downtown, so you should really look at coming here."

You don't know what you are talking about. That CVS used to keep later hours. Think they like paying for all the extra security measures? There is a reason they and similar business don't stay open 24 hours and that is because of crime, yes crime. I worked at Kroger on Northside when it was open 24 hours and we had to cut it back due to the fights, the shoplifting, the gunshots in the parking lot, and the crazies that would come in at 4 AM.

They realize there is business to be had by staying open around the clock but the expense and safety of their employees outweighs any profits.

By the way, the ONLY reason there are a Walgreens and CVS open is because there is supposed to be a 24 hour pharmacy open in this area.

El said...

Julie, how does the effort downtown fix this problem? When can we expect downtown economic performance to lift all the boats in Jackson.

Ad Valoreum Millage Rates (2007-2008)
*excludes County & School District

Jackson = 58.03 mils
Canton = 56.59 mils

Edwards = 43.0 mils

Clinton = 35.74 mils
Flora = 30.5 mils

Madison = 28.8 mils
Terry = 27.85 mils
Brandon = 24.0 mils
Pearl = 21.5 mils
Raymond = 21.17 mils
Florence = 20.9 mils
Ridgeland = 20.03 mils
Flowood = 20.0 mils
Richland = 20.0 mils

Julie said...

KF, I'm talking bigger picture/point was about non-office space businesses, not specifically a CVS. Whatever amenity we're talking about--I mean, heck, it could be a cell phone store, dry cleaners, or any other business for all I care, instead of a CVS--for the store/development/investors to come, we need to be able to show them that there's support for it that would justify the expense of them putting it here.

And the good news, as I see it, is twofold: (1) that developers like HRI and Watkins--and their financiers, who aren't typically in business to lose money, have been convinced that their investment here will pay off in those sorts of developments, and (2) as more and more folks live, work, and play here, we'll be able to have the numbers to support more non-office developments, whether it's a drugstore, or coffee shops that are open on the weekend, or a gas station that's open on Sundays. Believe me, I am well aware that they currently don't think staying open justifies the expense every time I want a Diet Coke on a Sunday afternoon and have to get in my car to drive up State Street because the Conoco across the street from me is closed. But that doesn't mean that as more and more of us live here, that won't change. It just means that we can--and will, as we get more residents down here--show that it's needed and will be profitable.

And that's what gets back to the original comment under Matt's post, which is that this article shows positive and exciting things happening here. There's a lot of opportunity and energy. Is it all going to be easy? No. Is it all going to be instant? Of course not. But it IS happening.

Julie said...

El, I'll get back to you. I actually don't work in economic development, so I'll have to go ask some folks and pull some information. I just love this city is all. But I'll find out the projections. I definitely can put my hands fairly quickly on stats from other cities about how a thriving downtown is key to the success of an entire metropolitan area, but I'll look for some Jackson-specific projections, too. Just bear with me a little while and I'll respond. (If anyone else has the info more readily at hand, go for it.)

Kingfish said...

1200 or 2000 residents isn't enough to support retail.

as for local, I'm sick and tired of watching chains get bashed. Why do I go to Home Depot? Because 75% of the time the Ace Hardware Store in Maywood doesn't have what I need. Why do I go to BAM instead of Lemuria? Because when i have time to buy something to read at 9:30 AM they are open. Why do I go to Kroger instead of McDades? Because they never have what I need and I don't feel like having a grocery bill that is $50 or more higher. Why did I quit buying from Cowboy Maloney's? Because I got tired of buying defective merchandise and bad service.

The locals want to compete then they need to improve in terms of inventory, service, and hours.

Julie said...

(1) 1200 is not what we could ultimately have, just what we could have relatively quickly. There's actually a more ambitious goal that's been set that I think is achievable, but before I say it incorrectly, I want to check. Ultimately, given the statistic that 10% of an area's population would live in an urban environment given the opportunity, if you just look at Jackson (rather than the entire Metro area), its population in the 2000 census was 184,256. So...I mean, you can do the math there.
(2) I think the local/chain debate is a whole other topic.

El said...

Per US Census Bureau Jackson's population is 173,861 as of July '08.

Jackson population (decrease):
1980-1990 = -3.1%
1990-2000 = -6.3%
2000-2008 = -6.6%

2000-2010 = -7.1% (projected)

If people want to live downtown that should be their choice. It isn't the responsibility of the dwindling number of Jackson taxpayers to finance the migration.

I hope you get your CVS or Walgreens but a drop in the retail bucket isn't going to pull this city back from the economic abyss.

The redevelopment of downtown is being sold to taxpayers as some type of bubble-like gold rush. Show us the money!

Julie said...

El, could you please tell me which specific taxes are financing exactly which parts of "the migration"? I'm just trying to make sure I understand exactly what you're referring to.

Jim Craig said...

Whether intended or not, Kingfish hit on the most important reason to develop both retail and residential spaces downtown:

That CVS used to keep later hours. Think they like paying for all the extra security measures? There is a reason they and similar business don't stay open 24 hours and that is because of crime, yes crime. I worked at Kroger on Northside when it was open 24 hours and we had to cut it back due to the fights, the shoplifting, the gunshots in the parking lot, and the crazies that would come in at 4 AM.

As Jane Jacobs wrote MANY years ago in her classic study, The Death and Life of Great American Cities , a vibrant downtown area actually REDUCES crime. What draws crime to a particular area is open space, emptiness, from lack of pedestrian or local driver traffic. Where ordinary people are milling and moving, crime doesn't happen as often.

Our downtown became a magnet for criminal activity when the retail department stores moved out to the malls and there was no longer any reason to be here after 5 or on weekends.

That HAS to change, unless you want to be running the gauntlet everytime you come to work, to the hospital, to court, to government offices.

It is admittedly a chicken-and-egg situation. The City has to blanket the area with community policing, the justice system needs to move cases efficiently through the system, AND there needs to be residential and retail development.

And by retail development, I don't mean just CVS or Walgreen. In places like Spokane WA or Des Moines IA, there are major chain department stores in the downtown.

I do disagree with the point about local versus national shopping. We need some good local businesses, but the capital for development comes from the national corporations that do retail at a large scale.

I don't live downtown. I do work here. And I would love to see Jackson keep up the good work by growing the downtown area by any measure possible.

If that requires diversion of tax dollars and tax breaks to make development happen, so be it.

Julie said...

I don't know that it answers any of the raised questions, and it may just raise more, but I think it's an interesting story of one city's approach to downtown revitalization through making it easier to refurb old buildings into residential units and hotels. This resulted in increased retail and other benefits, and the policy was so effective that, although it started out as a purely downtown initiative, it was expanded to go city-wide. (And I am not equating Jackson to L.A. I'm actually hesitant to post it at all, just because it is L.A. But it's one story of how something that began as a specifically downtown effort ended up helping improve the whole city. I'll look and pull some more from other cities more like our own.)

And KF and El, I will look for info to respond to your other comments. All I can say is that for my part, I were a developer, I wouldn't invest in a project that wasn't projected to generate revenue, so to me, the fact that we've got (updated figure) $2.1 billion in current and future projects in downtown says to me that these people have something demonstrating to them that their investment will pay off. And if they're private developments, they'll be paying more taxes than an empty city-owned building would. But I'd think the MDA or Hinds County Economic Development Authority or some entity has some sort of formula for figuring out the projected impact of development projects on the city/metro, shouldn't be that hard to find out some projected figures.

And just going back to the original post again...this downtown living means we'll attract and keep more of those young, talented, and creative people that we need in our state! I'm not saying that you personally should sell your house and move to a downtown loft apartment. I'm just saying it's a good thing that our city has this option and that there's beginning to be more and more of it. Is that a tangible number on a chart? No. I don't have one. I could try to find you one, but I don't need it for myself. I just think that it's a good goal to have a state in which we retain our best and brightest and have a vibrant and lively community.

Part of that, admittedly, is because I was one who tried to leave after college and never come back, but I did come back, and all this that's happening is what's kept me here. It's the ONLY thing that's kept me here; I could easily move somewhere else, but I've chosen to stay here. And I know there are others that feel the same way. I am wholeheartedly Jacksonian now, and I spend my money here, I live here, I work here, and I don't want to leave here. So...I mean, that's my money talking, at least.

Anonymous said...

If that requires diversion of tax dollars and tax breaks to make development happen, so be it.

Then put it to a vote Jim because I think the rest of Jackson dealing with decay and crumbling infrastructure needs to have their voices be heard. There has never been an advisory referendum on the matter. We don't have enough money to do it all so let the people decide if they want to sacrifice their neighborhoods for downtown. Let the small businesses have a voice if they want to sacrifice for a small select group of businesses downtown. Let the other business corridors in Jackson have a voice if they want to wait for downtown to be completed before redevelopment comes their way. Because if you don't give them a voice then the population and small businesses will only keep leaving.

Anonymous said...

... this downtown living means we'll attract and keep more of those young, talented, and creative people that we need in our state!

There is no shortage of young talent in Mississippi Julie. That is a myth.

Julie said...

Um, but I don't think I said there was a shortage. At least, if that's what you heard, I certainly didn't mean we don't have any. Heck, I count this blog's own Mr. Eichelberger--and all my contemporaries--among the young talent that we do have. I just said we need to recruit and retain. Recruit as in attract more of it and retain what we've got here, so we don't lose it. I would like to see us not lose population, but gain more young talent. (And if the earlier posted census stats are correct, then we're losing SOMEthing.) I'm thrilled at the increased number of young professionals I see involved and invested in the city as compared to when I came here five years ago. That's why I'm excited about all of this. And why I want to see the momentum keep going.

Jim Craig said...

MSbeerbaitammo, there have already been at least two votes on downtown development. One was the referendum on the bonds for the Jackson Convention Center. The other was the municipal election we just had. The City Council and the Mayor -- and to a lesser extent the Mississippi Legislature and the Governor -- are elected officials who have responsibility for making these decisions in our name.

That's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

That is quite a stretch to equate a vote for the Convention Center which is a special dedicated restaurant and hotel tax project as a vote for the public to finance the rebuilding of downtown in general including high priced rental housing.

Outside of the Holy Lands in Belhaven, Fondren, Eastover and the baker's dozen stalwarts living downtown today I sincerely doubt that a majority of those in Jackson would agree that such a mandate was given back in 2004.

Julie said...

KF and El, I made a few phone calls. As a result, we now have what may (will?) hopefully be a pilot project for the Jackson Community Design Center as a result of your inquiries. DJP has figures on the economic impact of the projects during construction, but typically doesn't have the post-construction projections. But with the right data, the MDA can make some estimates for that. The cool part? The data they need is precisely the sort of research and data-gathering that the JCDC exists to do, and for which they're currently applying for a grant (to fund a four-year project). If you're not familiar with the JCDC, check it out. It's a really cool entity. we have (I hope) a collaboration in the works that will result in having those numbers. This is exactly what I love about all this energy in Jackson! All I had to do was ask, and found people who were all really interested in helping out, and as a result, we'll have new numbers that will be usefull to everyone. I love it!

Ok. That's probably all I'll have time to post today.