A Petal landowner is looking at possibilities for developing the long-vacant 8-acre plot of land between Subway and BancorpSouth on West Central Avenue in Petal, with the idea of building a zero lot line subdivision at that site.
Keith Payne, who along with his father owns that tract of land, came before the Petal Board of Aldermen during last week’s board meeting to get input from board members before proceeding with any work on the plot, which has sat empty for the last several years. A zero lot line subdivision contains structures that come up to – or very near – the property line, such as rowhouses, garden homes, patio homes and townhomes.
“That little area should have been developed 20 years ago, and it’s just been sitting there,” Payne said. “I just kind of wanted to get with the board to kind of do a zero lot line subdivision there before I spend the money with the engineer and all that to get that drawn out – I just wanted to get with you and make sure you’re okay with it.
“It’s infrastructured for 276 units now, but if it’s zero lot line townhouses, it’s only going to be maybe 20 or 30 houses in there instead of apartments. It would be kind of a close-knit subdivision there, and then in front I was going to put commercial businesses. I wish Walmart would have been the one that bought it from us, but … Walmart backed out of it.”
Under Payne’s proposal, the homes would offer a minimum of 1,400 square feet each, with a garden home design.
“I’m kind of mirroring it off of some zero lot line houses in Canebrake, and there’s some in Oak Grove,” Payne said. “In the front, people would be able to walk, and you’d pull your car in the back.
“And then we’d try to get something up front for commercial, pretty close to the grocery stores. I did have a big grocery chain also wanting to come there, and they actually did come here, but they didn’t go into that location.”
Mayor Hal Marx said he would love to see Petal get a project similar to The District at Midtown, the mixed-used development across from the University of Southern Mississippi that offers retail, restaurant and living units.
“They have those shops there, and you could even do a mixture of some housing or whatever there,” Marx told Payne. “That’d be great, but of course it’s your property, and you’ve got to do what you think you’ve got to do. We just need to make sure it’s going to be something that’s beneficial to the city, because it is in the heart of downtown.”
Ward 6 Alderman Craig Bullock said he also would like to see development at that site, as long as it fit with the neighborhood and the city.
“Certainly, we can’t guarantee you here that you would just have a blank slate to kind of do whatever,” he said. “But I think everybody would be certainly in favor of developing that for the betterment of the city.”
Marx said the downtown area does need attractions to keep people coming to that part of the city, noting a mixed-use development would help draw residents and businesses to that stretch.
“It’s been very hard – we’ve tried a lot of different things,” he said. “People like to get on social media and talk about why we don’t do this and that.
“Look, we’ve tried – we’ve tried a lot of things, but we can’t make people make an investment into an area. It takes people who are willing to put their money into it – take a gamble, take a risk. So I think we’d all be open to seeing what you’d come up with and help you in any way we can.”
Payne will now meet with individual aldermen and Building Department director Amy Heath to toss around ideas for the lot.
“Let’s talk more specific about what can be done there, and get the ball rolling on that,” Marx said. “But I think we’re all in favor of seeing what’s possible.”