Many ideas for burned property, but redevelopment will take some time

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 29, 2007

With cleaning deadlines met and the debris of the downtownBrookhaven fire of May 24 hauled away to the landfills, arearesidents have begun to ponder what comes next for the property onthe corner of Monticello Street and Whitworth Avenue.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said the chamber has heard a multitude ofsuggestions from well-meaning citizens, but that doesn’t mean theycan bring them to fruition.

“Some people are still quite anxious to see something new gothere, but they need to realize we live in a capitalist economy andthings don’t just happen overnight,” Brumfield said.

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The land where four businesses were destroyed by anearly-morning blaze is still owned by businesswoman Jan Bullock andbusinessman Charles “Chid” Lofton, both of Brookhaven. Because ofthat, Brumfield said, good ideas also need backup on severallevels.

“It takes not only a great idea but sound funding and goodbusiness judgment to bring these ideas to reality,” he said. “Mostimportantly, the land is privately and not publicly owned, soanyone with said ideas need to contact the landowners in order tomove forward.”

Bullock, who owned the Posey Place, said while she and Loftonhave been contacted by some businesses, nothing is in the worksyet.

“There are things we’re looking at, but there’s nothing we cando right away,” she said. “If someone came to us with a great ideawe’d love to see the town made whole again, and we’re certainly notgoing to stand in the way and we’d be glad to sell the property. Ifnot, we’re going to hang on to it a couple more years until we canput something else there.”

Brumfield said the ideas he has heard proposed run the gamutfrom restaurants to stores to just about every other type ofbusiness under the sun.

“We’ve had plenty of people approach us with ideas of whatthey’d like to see there. But the funding to bring it to reality,we’ve not seen yet,” he said. “There have absolutely been some veryinteresting possibilities. I think the thing the people with thegreat ideas need to remember is that it’s privately owned propertyand any ideas need to be regarded as such and treated as a businessdeal.”

Meanwhile, Bullock said she’s got plans of her own, even if it’sgoing to be two years or so down the road. She said if the propertysells, that would be fine with her, but if not, she has a visionfor what could next adorn the corner of Whitworth Avenue andMonticello Street.

“Personally I think something that would house four shops andfour apartments on top would be perfect there,” she said.”Unfortunately those things cost a lot of money, and something likethat would take time and money. But it would be really good there,or even a bed and breakfast rather than apartments for visitorscoming into town.”

Such a place, she said, would be perfect for parents visitingtheir children at the Mississippi School for the Arts.

And while the downtown fire was a crippling blow to Bullock’sbusiness, she continues to work toward the next step for herbusiness plans, saying she will be using property she owns onMcCall Creek Road to build her businesses back to full speed. Herbaby clothing business, Bootie Baby, will be the first thing she’sstarting back in the next two weeks, she said.

“And we’ll open a soap shop, but not a big bath shop like we hadbefore, in February on my goldfish pond, and we’re just going to dothat for right now,” she said. “But I don’t have anythingshort-term that I will be able to do downtown. There has been talkof a couple of businesses that have been interested, but to thispoint, we’re thinking about something that would be a couple ofyears down the road.”

Bullock said if there were no firm offers, she will beginredevelopment efforts in two years.