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Living facility on track for startup

The road is open for a north Mississippi company to construct anassisted living center in Brookhaven, and city leaders are expectedto green light the project early next week.

The Brookhaven Planning Commission last week approved a requestfrom Clarksdale’s Providence Development Group, LLC to rezone sevenacres of land adjacent to the Brookhaven Children’s Clinic to allowconstruction of a large assisted living facility. With no protestsfiled and no members of the public attending the hearing, thecommission approved recommending aldermen rezone the site from C-3,highway commercial, to R-3, multi-family residential.

“It was pretty smooth. There wasn’t anything special they had toask for,” said commission chairman Mike Clark. “That area, ofcourse, has been in transition for years now, ever sinceCountryBrook and the hospital and all of that went back there. Wewere kind of wondering about the neighborhood at the end of AnnStreet, but we didn’t have any inquiries. When you drive backthere, it’s as quiet as can be.”

With the property rezoned, Providence is clear to beginconstruction on its $7 million facility, planned at 47,000 squarefeet and 60 rooms, private and suites. Twenty rooms will bereserved for investors, 20 for special needs seniors withAlzheimer’s and dementia and 20 are open for rent. The facility isexpected to create 30-35 full-time jobs for 24-hour staffing.

Pete Johnson, Providence’s chief executive officer, said hiscompany has already ordered engineering work on the Brookhaven siteto begin.

“We’re hoping we can (start construction) by the first part ofOctober. Thirty days – we’re on the fast track now,” he said.

Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner said aldermen would likely approvethe commission’s zoning recommendations at the Tuesday, Sept. 7board meeting.

“I don’t think there’s much for us to take up,” he said. “More thanlikely it will be on the agenda to approve the recommendation ofthe planning commission.”

Bumgarner was one of several local elected and business leadersProvidence flew to Senatobia in mid-August to inspect an assistedliving facility identical to the one planned for Brookhaven. Thevisiting party was impressed, finding “no negatives period.”

Furthermore, the Homeseekers Paradise has long needed assistedliving facilities, Bumgarner said.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 18.4 percent of city residents -almost 2,000 people – are age 65 and over. In Lincoln County as awhole, 14 percent of citizens – more than 6,400 people – are seniorcitizens.

The trend continues in neighboring counties. Senior citizensaccount for 12.7 percent of Copiah County, 15.2 percent of FranklinCounty, 13.3 percent of Lawrence County and 14.2 percent of PikeCounty.

In Lincoln County and its immediate neighbors, there are more than18,540 people age 65 and up – according to 10-year-old data fromthe U.S. Census Bureau.

“There’s definitely a need,” Bumgarner said. “(Providence) choseBrookhaven because they felt like this was kind of the hub forSouthwest Mississippi, and they’re planning on drawing from thesurrounding areas.”

Brookhaven will be home to two assisted living facilities ifProvidence and local developer Gayle Evans stay the course. WhileProvidence is building its project near the medical complex, Evansis planning his own in downtown.

“We’re going to have two different facilities, and people will havea choice,” Bumgarner said. “And I think the market will supportthem both.”