Petal partners with SMPDD for restoration of vacant buildings and blighted properties

By HASKEL BURNS,

Members of the Petal Board of Aldermen took the opportunity during last week’s board meeting to hear more about a revitalization program offered by the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District aimed at the restoration of vacant buildings and blighted properties around the city.

Lindsay Ward, senior project manager for the SMPDD, explained to board members some of the particulars of the program, which offers a grant reimbursement or incentive for the redevelopment of those properties. Under the terms of a commercial redevelopment program, a private developer would be eligible for a reimbursable grant based on the predetermined amount related to the increase in sales tax generated from the redevelopment project.

“This is actually something that I’m personally very passionate about, because I think that’s one of the biggest things our communities need, especially in the SMPDD area,” Ward said. “It’s great when you have that new development, such as what we see here on the Evelyn Gandy (Parkway) – that’s wonderful, but we can’t forget about our roots and where we came from. And typically what you see is that those areas are forgotten.”

As part of the first step of the program, a developer would express interest to city officials in redevelopment of a blighted or vacant building, at which point the city and the SMPDD would provide the developer with an application for the reimbursement program. Once the application is received by officials, a Tri-Party agreement between the city, SMPDD and the developer would be brought before the board of aldermen for approval.

Once the agreement is approved, the developer would then enter into a Program Agreement with SMPDD, sign the agreements, and begin construction on redevelopment. After construction is complete and the developer has received the Certificate of Occupancy, the developer would then submit verified projects costs to SMPDD and will begin to receive annual reimbursement grants after a calendar year of operation.

“There’s two ways that we can do this,” Ward said. “It can be done on a case-by-case basis – you have this blighted building in your area that needs the most help – or you can define a geographic area that needs it the most.”

In their talks with city officials, SMPDD staff have identified two areas in Petal that would possibly be the best fit for the program: the stretch of Main Street running from West 1st Avenue to West 9th Avenue, and a section of Central Avenue running west from McInnis Street, east to Ford Avenue and south to West 5th Avenue.

“I had mentioned (those areas), which are really the commercial areas,” Mayor Hal Marx said. “We have a lot of older buildings – some vacant, and some that may become vacant in the future because of people moving to the Gandy.”

Marx said the program could be implemented at no risk to the city, as the city is not required to put money up front for infrastructure.

“If you’ve got a vacant building, like the old Pizza Hut building right now, we’re not getting any sales tax from that,” he said. “So if we had someone who wanted to come in and open something new there that was going to generate sales tax, then at least we could get 50 percent of that sales tax for the first 10 years, and after 10 years, you get 100 percent of it.

“And in the meantime, you have a building that’s no longer vacant, and would be worked on to look more aesthetically pleasing, provide jobs, and provide another commercial or retail option here in Petal. So I don’t think there’s any risk or downside to the city for participating in this.”