Care facility deserves second look by city board

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A fire last May that engulfed several historic downtownBrookhaven buildings could have a silver lining if a developer issuccessful in convincing city leaders that his plans for theproperty are a viable project for the downtown area.

As originally envisioned, the five-story building would house anursing home and an assisted living facility for the elderly.

City board members voted 4-2 against the idea during the March18 aldermen meeting. Board members cited concerns over parking andzoning issues, but mainly their concern is that such a facility forthe elderly would be poorly suited downtown.

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Peering into a crystal ball one can see the possibilities forthis development and how it might become a viable center for thecommunity’s elderly. A facility where senior citizens can gather,stroll the streets during the day and watch over downtown duringthe night. A building that architecturally complements the downtownarea and serves as an anchor for downtown development.

With the possibility of 50 to 75 new downtown residents in sucha facility, added to the growing number of younger people alreadymoving into downtown apartments, one can see the possibility of newretail business opening to service the needs of this growing urbanpopulation.

Peering into that same crystal ball one can also see problems.Grand dreams are sometimes just that – grand dreams. A five-storydormitory style structure standing in downtown could easily becomean albatross to our downtown growth.

If for some reason the project fails, the city is stuck with alarge but vacant building and the growth of our downtown is stymiedas well as a potential eyesore is created.

However, it was not many years ago, just across the tracks, thatthe Inez Hotel stood vacant before investors came to the downtownlandmark’s rescue. Of course today, The Inez sits as a cornerstoneto our downtown, as well as a home to many downtown residents.

One can say much the same for Lampton Auditorium and theWhitworth College campus. These were visions that brought hugebenefits to our community – although none succeeded without a fewbumps and bruises.

There is a definite need for an assisted-care facility inBrookhaven and there is a definite need for proper development onthe burned-out Monticello Street location. The two seem like anexcellent match.

But it is important that all the “i’s are dotted and t’scrossed,” and the board is acting properly in making sure thathappens.

However, their vote two weeks ago makes one wonder if theyreacted too quickly and if more study is not needed. The cityshould have assurance that the project has proper financial backingand that the new building’s appearance ties to the architecturalintegrity of the downtown area. Those issues have not beenthoroughly discussed.

There is no doubt this community is in need of an assisted-carefacility – which differs from the traditional nursing home. Withoutsuch facilities, we are forcing our elderly to move to othercommunities who offer such accommodations.

The city board is expected to re-visit the discussion Tuesday.After they review the project in greater detail and receive thenecessary assurances from the developer, it is hard to imagine whythis type of development would not be well-suited for the downtownarea – and thus be a catalyst for more growth for the heart of ourcommunity.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to