The City of Jackson and LRK Architects formally introduced the idea for a 6,500-person convention center and revitalized Old Hickory Blvd. to the community Tuesday night.
However, at this time, it’s only an idea.
“The reality of this, especially tonight, is this just simply casting a vision or showing people what this could be, and how we can dream a little bit as a city, showing some examples of what it would look like to have an arena on a vacant and blighted site, what it would look like to have some apartments and walkability and retail and then civic space,” said Lauren Kirk, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Jackson.
The Old Hickory and Jackson Plaza site encompasses the old Jackson Plaza shopping center, Old Hickory Mall, and the Lynnwood shopping center. The Service Merchandise building in the Jackson Plaza has sat vacant for two decades, and Old Hickory Mall has lost many of its stores over the last several years, including its anchors. Earlier this year, the City of Jackson purchased the Jackson Plaza. Old Hickory Mall is still owned by CBL and Associates Properties.
Since much of the land in the sub-area is owned by the private sector, Kirk described this community meeting as an announcement that the city wants revitalization in the area, and is willing to put in the work to make it happen. Eventually, completing this project will be dependent on the private sector.
LRK and the city described their vision for the Old Hickory Sub-area as “a vibrant mixed-use ‘town center’ anchored by an event center, characterized by a thriving district with appealing buildings, an interconnected street network, and inviting open spaces.”
Plans first included a 6,500 person event center and arena. Plans showed an arena that could convert from sporting events to concerts and conferences. Victor Buchholz, from LRK, said this size of an arena is in demand for conferences.
Buchholz also described a revitalized Old Hickory Mall, not necessarily a new development. Plans showed the original open-air walkways returning, and green space between stores. Apartment buildings and restaurants lined the parking lot, and trees were drawn on either side of the street.
“So we’ve seen a lot of excitement. When people see the renderings, they’re like, ‘Wow, this could be Jackson,’ or, ‘This feels like a much larger city than Jackson,’ but it’s scaled down to fit our size. So it’s not making us be what we’re not, but it’s celebrating what we are and making it someplace that everyone can feel welcome, inspired, encouraged to want to stay here,” Kirk said.
The vision also recognized potential hurdles, including traffic and pedestrian connections, the mall redevelopment and issues that could arise with that, and funding.
The Four Sub-Areas
This meeting was the last in a series of four to redesign four sub-areas in Jackson: Downtown/Airways, West Jackson, Oman Arena, and The Jackson Plaza/Old Hickory.
Downtown was described as “an urban district that enhances the living experience by leveraging the existing assets, improving pedestrian-friendly spaces, and providing opportunities for entertainment and leisure.”
West Jackson was described as “a district that embraces its rural charm by screening industrial sites along major corridors, encouraging new investments/assets such as Century Farm Winery or Samuel T. Bryant Distillery, and clustering small-scale businesses and residential developments within existing communities or at four-ways. Where appropriate, allow compact, placemaking residential development.”
The Oman Arena sub-area was described as “an inclusive destination for students and neighborhood residents through encouraging educational and recreational venues, neighborhood friendly retail and restaurants, enhancing roadways for multimodal use, and improving connectivity to surrounding areas.”
LRK and the city are still taking public comments for the plans. The form can be found at jacksontn.gov/residents/masterplanning. The survey only takes about ten minutes to complete. A full presentation is expected later this year.
Julia Ewoldt, firstname.lastname@example.org