Selling the City, With Perks


The council voted to approve an ordinance change that will save the Pinnacle at Jackson Place a gob of cash this year, though not all council members jumped behind it.

The council voted 5-to-1 in favor of an ordinance change that would waive building, construction and connection fees to certain developments in the city's Central Business District.

The two ordinances that the council adopted are aimed directly at the Pinnacle, a $43 million office building at Capitol and Lamar Streets. Funded by Parkway Properties, the building is slated for completion in late 2008, and will provide multi-use facilities, including office space, condominiums, apartments and retail space.

"All we've done is ask (the city) to waive certain fees that keep us competitive with Madison and Rankin Counties," said Parkway Properties CEO Steve Rogers. "We promised our customers—the tenants, the law firms coming into our buildings—that we would pass those savings on to them so they could stay in downtown Jackson. We dropped our rent based on our assumptions that the city would be supportive of these matters and we appreciate the council adopting (the ordinance) today. It sends a strong message to the business community that Jackson is open for business."

Rogers said the waivers of permit and water-tap fees amount to one-time savings "above $100,000," but added that "the investment we're making (in Jackson) is $50 million."

No council member opposes the development, though one councilman is shaky over the financial loss to the city that the fee waivers represent.

"I know these are one-time fees, but it could total hundreds of thousands of dollars, even exceed $1 million," said Councilman Marshand Crisler, the lone opposition vote on the ordinance change.

"I appreciate the amount of investment they're putting into the city. I'm crazy about it. But we're talking about building and permit fees, and construction fees, and I didn't realize that all these fees were included when we were batting around this idea a few months ago."

Crisler warned that the city is still facing at least a $3.5 million budget deficit, is hard up for money, and could suffer in the long run after too many exemptions.

"Taking into account the fiscal climate of this city right now, I thought the timing was pretty bad," Crisler said. "The problem is that cutting on this now could mean a general tax or fee hike later for the whole city. I've got to look ahead for the future, because if I'm re-elected I don't want to have to face the possibility of another citywide fee or tax hike in my next term."

Other companies building in the area stand to exploit the same fee waiver if they also build in the Central Business District, which could potentially cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars on each project. Jackson's economic and development consultant Jimmy Heidel said only certain companies building in the area can qualify for the waivers, however.

"Other companies could conceivably take advantage of the waivers, but they would have to meet certain requirements first. If they're making over a $50 million investment and if they're employing X number of people. That's the kind of thing that ties it down," said Heidel, who championed the fee waiver.

"Jackson is at a point where it has to build itself back up. People need to invest and get it started rolling, then we can attract businesses without sacrifice, but we can't sell the city right now without some extra perks. There's just too much competition."


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