Jackson leaders study success of downtown Chattanooga - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson leaders study success of downtown Chattanooga

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By Howard Ballou - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Restaurants, like the one we visited in downtown Chattanooga, were filled.  What's so unusual is that it was mid-week, Wednesday evening and not the weekend. Jackson businessman Mark Fields grew up in Chattanooga, and he admitted it's not the city he remembers.

"As in every city we've been to, one of the themes has been don't turn your back on the river," said Fields.

Much of the success of downtown cChattanooga can be attributed to the city and county and the private sector, coming together to transform the Tennessee River from an industrial waste dump to a vibrant waterfront destination. 

Downtown Jackson Partners head, Ben Allen saw no reason why Mississippi's capital city couldn't do the same with the Pearl River.

"We've got something that they don't have, and that's called two creeks running through our city right now," said Allen.  "They could be akin to San Antonio, Texas.  We've got a beautiful place for a Riverwalk.  It's there."

Kim Hilliard is director of Jackson State University's Center for University-Based Development. She said she was impressed with the connectivity, with how almost everything was within walking distance in downtown Chattanooga.

But Hilliard said she was most struck by how clean the city was.

"There wasn't overgrown weeds, blight.  You didn't see litter, and so that is one of the simple things that I think that we can address as well, to take advantage of our natural landscapes as well," said Hilliard.

H.A. "Beau" Whittington has been a downtown Jackson-based businessman for 26 years, and he said he has no plans of relocating.  This was his third D.J.P.'s tour.  He said the pride Chattanoogans have in their city impressed him, and while Whittington acknowledges they've done an excellent job of restoring their city, he said:

"I think Jackson can exceed that.  We've already started that.  If you look at downtown Jackson, the Convention Complex, Farish Street, Standard Life, King Edward," said Whittington. "When all the things are going in downtown Jackson right now, we've already started that process.  All we have to do is build on it."

Allen said he's seeing different divisions of government starting to be receptive to the idea of downtown redevelopment, and he praised Mayor Harvey Johnson for his recent negotiation of the project for the 200-million-dollar Convention Center hotel.

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