SPECIAL REPORT: Brandon - The sleeping giant - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

SPECIAL REPORT: Brandon - The sleeping giant

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

Seventeen thousand cars pass through downtown Brandon every day, and the people driving by may not have any idea what's happening in the old building just south of the Civil War statue.

Inside, it's a construction zone, soon to house a new restaurant called Genna Benna, a bakery, and a speak-easy saloon downstairs.

The venue, set to open in June, will be part of the Georgia Blue restaurants. And Mayor Butch Lee says it's just the tip of the development iceberg in Brandon. 

"That's the message we're trying to get out to hotels and restaurateurs; you got a sleeping giant right here," he said. 

Helping to awaken the giant, the Grants Ferry Parkway, a three-mile stretch of road that will cut from Highway 80 east to Highway 471. The parkway is partially built. A property acquisition to finish it should be complete by the end of the summer.

Along that parkway sits roughly 700 acres of land ripe for development.  Lee says no more lots are left in Brandon, and he expects developers to jump at the chance to add more rooftops. Eight-hundred homes have been built in Brandon in the last five years and hundreds more could be coming, along with a planned 500-thousand gallon water tank to support the new development.

The city also wants to connect some of the neighborhoods to downtown with sidewalks. 

"Connecting people where they live to the services and things they want to enjoy in life, without having to get in the car and go get it," Lee told us. 

Also, downtown, all of the utilities will eventually be buried.

New eateries and stores continue to pop up along East Government Street, and the goal is to ensure the lights don't all go out at dusk. 

"To make any downtown vital, you have to have commerce but you have to have people living there, because at 5:00 that's what keeps it lively," said Jackson-based Architect Jamie Wier.

He bought the building that will house Genna Benna, renovated the second-floor space, and moved in. He transformed the rest of the top floor into loft apartments and an Air BNB rental for travelers.

Wier has been working closely with Mayor Lee on transforming areas of the city to suit its residents, and that includes the brand new amphitheater, which Lee said will be paid for completely by the city's special tax levies.

Concertgoers love it so far, and Lee says, developers do too. 

"After the first show, the next morning I had another hotel knocking on the door," added Lee. 

That would be hotel number two to compliment the one already planned for the land behind Chick-Fil-A near the Crossgates Exit. 

"Both of these are quality flags, and there are going to be more," he tells us. 

Across from the amphitheater, expect "The Quarry" to open in July. It's a new set of baseball and softball fields. Walking and biking trails will be built around the fields. 

The new county courthouse going up on the corner of North and Tamberline Streets should be complete by March 2019, according to Rankin County Supervisor Jared Morrison. He says the weather has delayed the project, but the contractor has been working diligently on it. Bond money is funding the county project. 

We asked the Rankin County School District about any plans to alleviate the traffic congestion on College Street, in front of Brandon Middle School. Kristen Windham, Director of Public Relations, says "There are plans in our bond issue project for Brandon Middle and Brandon Elementary School to stage traffic in a way that will lighten the burden on Highway 80 and College Street.

The school district doesn’t have the authority to widen a city road. The City of Brandon has been involved in this process since the beginning. All of the bond issue information can be found here: https://www.rcsd.ms/Page/50115". 

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