City needs plans, assurances that projects are fit

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, July 11, 2010

As one passes by Brookhaven on I-55 or enters at BrookwayBoulevard, the first visual impression now of the Homeseeker’sParadise is a rusting shell of a three-story motel whereconstruction has been halted due to the troubling economictimes.

A lack of proper financial capital or poor financing by its ownersresulted in the shutting down of the construction site in 2008 andthus the eyesore this community must suffer with each day. Thoserusting I-beams are not the first impression we want visitors tosee of our community.

The lesson to be learned from the situation is the importance ofproper documentation by city officials of the financial strength ofprojects being planned for our community and some method ofrecourse to protect the community should a project go awry.

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Which brings us to the most recent building project in our faircity – a multi-storied extended care facility in downtownBrookhaven. Standing five-stories and overlooking the downtownarea, the building will not be the tallest structure in our city,for that distinction goes to the dormitory and student lifebuilding on the campus of the Mississippi School of the Arts.

The conception of the planned facility solves a desperate need forthis area. Despite our designation as one of Mississippi’sCertified Retirement Communities, Brookhaven lacks facilities formany of those elderly but independent retirees whose needs are notthat of those offered at a nursing home.

For whatever reason, here in Southwest Mississippi extended carefacilities are available in McComb and Natchez but not here inBrookhaven. While attempts have been made to build extended carefacilities in the past, for various reasons city officials havediscouraged those efforts.

The extended living project being planned for downtown Brookhavenis by Franklin County resident Gayle Evans. Independent in his ownway, Mr. Evans has built nursing homes around the state over theyears – one here in Brookhaven many years ago. He has beenfrustrated with his current effort, as hurdles from the CanadianNational railroad, the state of Mississippi and from the City ofBrookhaven had to be overcome. Those issues have slowly beenresolved over the past year. On June 15 the Brookhaven Board ofAdjustments gave their blessing to the project.

Another hurdle was thrown the project’s way last Tuesday night whenthe Board of Aldermen called a public hearing to further discussMr. Evans’ assisted living project.

Considering the rusting shell of the hotel construction site at ourfront door on Brookway Boulevard, city officials are wise to keep aclose eye on this downtown project, to protect the integrity ofthis vital area of our community. But at the same time, not do soin a way that throws up barriers to investors and developers whowill simply move elsewhere.

Brookhaven needs assurances that this project is financiallyfeasible, a performance bond that allows the city to avoid anotherBrookway Boulevard situation would go a long way toward that goal.So too, the city must have assurances that the design and look ofthe facility be complementary to the architectural style of thedowntown area.

Mr. Evans’ project may or may not be the perfect fit for ourcommunity, but all parties can agree on its need. Hopefully, a goodunderstanding and a strong partnership will be the result of thepublic hearing.