MissPres News Roundup 9-4-2009

The official sponsor of this week’s News Roundup is White Shoes: Wear ’em While You Can.

Well, after spending the last two weeks on the Coast, we have to bring ourselves back to reality and acknowledge that the rest of the state does exist. So, what’s going on out there?

Aug 27, 2009: I don’t know anything about the Skellie house mentioned in this Sun-Herald story “Relative Beauty” but next time I’m in Long Beach, I’m going to root around for a green bungalow-ish house, because the owner “wanted to be a part of saving Long Beach” and “didn’t want to see the house torn down.” She’s one of the many “regular people saving their history” on the Coast.

Aug. 28, 2009: I found this article “Standard Life sale ‘reckless,’ Lumumba says” really disturbing, for at least two reasons. Chokwe Lumumba, one of Jackson’s newest City Council members and according to his online bio “a conscious citizen of the New Afrikan nation in North America” since 1969, is accusing the Jackson Redevelopment Authority of being racially motivated in selling the Standard Life Building in Jackson to a majority-white business when a majority-black business had made a better offer to buy the building and renovate it for use as offices (its original use).

First, I’m disturbed that as closely as I thought I’d been watching the Standard Life project, I hadn’t heard about this other offer from the Roberts brothers of St. Louis–the new owners of the Walthall Hotel in downtown Jackson. Was it reported in the newspaper and I just missed it? Second, if true that the Roberts brothers offered $3 million for the building and planned to continue using it partly for offices and partly for boutique hotel and condos, while HRI, the developers of the King Edward, only offered $1 million (with $900,000 being loaned by JRA) and proposed to convert the bottom floor to retail and the rest to apartments, were there other issues JRA considered in making the decision? If not, what’s the deal here? Personally, I don’t give two cents to the racial argument, but I am interested in the economics of the decision.

As I’ve mentioned before, while being happy for historic buildings to find new uses when necessary, I’m not comfortable with the present fad of changing perfectly serviceable commercial/office buildings into residential because it’s very intrusive to the building, requiring lots of new plumbing for all those bathrooms and kitchens. Meanwhile, new office buildings like the Pinnacle are being built only a few blocks away. Anyway, I admit I instinctively mistrust developers in general, and in this case, reading Mr. Lumumba’s resume, I’m not sure I trust his perspective either. But just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean no one is following me, right?

Aug. 30, 2009: A good long article with pictures “Inside the Threefoot building: A look at the building’s past, present, and future” updating the status of the Threefoot Building, which may soon be undergoing its own conversion to a Courtyard by Marriot hotel, also developed by HRI. According to the article, the building has never been financially viable as an office building and that’s why I’m not as hesitant about this conversion, especially given the need for a downtown hotel to compliment the Grand Opera House:

L.M. and Louis Threefoot had high hopes when they first erected the now iconic Threefoot building downtown — what they didn’t have was good timing.

Construction began on the Threefoot building, which originally cost $750,000 to build, in mid-1929 — just before the stock market crash that sent this country into the great depression.

A newspaper article from April of that year reported that, along with the Threefoot brothers, “some score or more of the leading citizens of Meridian and Mississippi,” invested in the building, which was said to have “space for upwards of two-hundred and fifty offices.”

But apparently 250 offices was more than depression-era Meridian could accommodate.

Sept. 2, 2009: The Clarion-Ledger article “Lease in works for blind school” and the follow-up editorial “Leases: state must think outside the box” strengthen my belief that this train has left the station and that the abandoned School for the Blind on Eastover Drive in Jackson will not survive to move from “abandoned” to “beloved.” It seems clear than there was never any other option considered for the school that would have preserved at least the core of the campus intact. Preservationists haven’t exactly stepped up to the plate on this, either, and even if we had, we probably would have been steam-rolled by the moneyed interests. We got beat from the start–nowhere has any article I’ve ever seen on this subject have I ever seen even a reference to the fact that the school might have some historic or architectural value.

It’s a shame, and given Jackson’s propensity to use and discard shopping areas like disposable plates, I figure around 2030 we’ll all be discussing what in the world to do with this blighted old New Urbanist development on Eastover.

Sept. 3, 2009: Bennie Thompson plans to commemorate the 1961 Freedom Riders on the 50th anniversary in 2011, according to the Clarion-Ledger article “Thompson plans to honor ’61 protest.” This might be the beginning of the commemoration of Civil Rights sites in Mississippi that seems to be lagging a bit behind Alabama and Georgia, as we discussed in “SAH Civil Rights Memorial Study Tour” a few weeks ago.

Sept. 3, 2009:Court ruling may close restaurant: Patrons fight for fine dining at Sophia’s” in the Clarion-Ledger discusses the on-going fight between neighbors in the historic Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson about the use of “Fairview Inn,” a grand classical house that is individually listed on the National Register, as a bed-and-breakfast and apparently more egregiously, as a high-end restaurant. A suit brought by two couples who live on the same street accusing the city of spot zoning for allowing the restaurant has now been decided in favor of the plaintiffs, meaning, I think, that the restaurant has to close. The city is asking the state Supreme Court to revisit the case and many other neighbors are furious with the neighbors who brought the suit. Eeek! I decline to get in the middle of this brouhaha, but mention it because it’s one of the few times you see these kinds of zoning issues discussed in a way that resonates with regular people.

Sept. 3, 2009: In August 14th’s News Roundup, I mentioned that the Summit Historical Societywas considering moving the Liberty-White RR depot from the suburbs of Holmesville to Summit, 17 miles away. Well, these people move fast–no standing around talking about it, just go ahead and do it! The depot made its move yesterday to its new home next to the railroad in downtown Summit: read about the project and check out photos at www.summithistory.com/Depot-Project. You go, Summit Historical Society!

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Categories: Civil Rights, Depots, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson, Schools, Summit

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