JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - For decades it sat as a towering tombstone, a mirror to the erosion of downtown Jackson. Then, in March 2008, a big announcement touched off the restoration of the King Edward Hotel.
"$90 million is a lot of money, but these things are very complex and difficult," Investor David Watkins said at that time.
Turns out he wasn't blowing smoke. Today, the hotel is again taking guests. They enter into a majestic lobby with a mixture of modern and restored amenities. The marble floor, which sat beneath rubble for decades, is now polished and fully revealed in its original glory.
"There's actually 186 hotel sleeping rooms, then there's 64 apartments above the hotel," says Norman Amort, Executive Vice President of Hotel Operations for H.R.I. Lodging, the company managing the hotel and apartments.
The hotel rooms range in price from $99 to $179 per night. 16 of them are already occupied with guests. The hotel features an indoor pool, a workout room, meeting space, and a restaurant called The King Edward Grill.
The building also includes 64 one- and two-bedroom apartments. 47 of them have already been leased.
Or perhaps 48.
"Gives a lot of options for individuals who want to move to the city," says James Banks, a Jackson resident who toured several of the apartments Wednesday. Banks has his eye on one of the two-bedroom flats, with hardwood floors, recessed lighting, and double-paned glass to block the sound of the nearby trains.
"I work right down the street. I'll save money on (gas). It's a wonderful location," Banks says.
Don't let the original king Edward sign atop the building confuse you. This hotel is now officially named the Hilton Garden Inn Jackson, but you won't be the only one still calling it the King Edward.
H.R.I. Leasing is also in charge of the apartments under construction in the old Standard Life building. That complex is expected to open in August 2010.