JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – With the King Edward Hotel up and running, more development is on the horizon in the downtown area.
The group who took on that renovation has the Farish Street Historic District in their sights and ever so quietly change is underway.
In late January Farish Street disguises what new developers say is a hidden transformation.
In 1998 plans were underway for big changes to what was the former African American center of commerce.
Residents and businesses are still awaiting that change.
"It's been here a long time," said 45 year old Henry King of Jackson.
The sheet rock installer lives off Farish Street and walks past these boarded up buildings each day on the way to work.
"You see a lot of these places that look like this now because they had no help about picking it up, but I think it can come back though," said King.
Can new life be breathed into the old historic Farish Street walls?
Twelve years ago there was a start, but new developers are trying again.
"We have started. This project is going to happen," said Watkins Partners LLC Director of Entertainment Brad "Kamikaze" Franklin.
Without fanfare Watkins Partners began construction on the first block of Farish between Amite and Griffith Streets.
It is a more than $16.5 million dollar undertaking.
At the Alamo Theater Monday evening Franklin updated residents and business owners on the progress.
"They've heard millions of times over the past 15 years that we're about to start construction or this project is going to be done by this time. So they've had a lot of disappointments."
But Watkins Partners, headed by David Watkins the developer of the King Edward, says the first block will consist of a B.B. King's, Red Rooster Restaurant, The Big Apple Inn which will move a few doors down to the new location, Cool Al's Restaurant and the revival of the famous Subway Lounge.
"I think the blues is the one thing we have to capitalize on in this area," said Wade Grant of Clinton.
The 37 year old network specialist with the Mississippi Department of Education bicycles to work through the district daily and is cautiously optimistic but says safety must be foremost in attracting crowds.
"Anytime you put food and entertainment in one package to bring down in one location where you can just walk from place to place and feel safe and comfortable, then you've got a great setup," said Grant.
Residents in the area have heard lots of promises and seen projects stop and start, but there is interest and hope.
Developers said the first block of the entertainment district will be completed in September.
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