Destination Downtown

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree. Photography by Judge Blake Anderson, Kristina Only & Woody Woodard.

What an exciting time it is for downtown Jackson! Two years ago in my introduction to the Destination Downtown special section I related a story about a speech I gave at First Friday Forum around 1990 as the first Executive Director of Jackson Downtown Development Corporation (JDDC). I asked the attendees to close their eyes and dream with me about a bustling center city with numerous residents in homes, condos and apartments; a renovated New Southern Hotel; and busy retail shops and restaurants.

Dreams do come true as many of the items on my wish list have come to fruition. Some have not yet become a reality, but I’m betting that they will in due time: a New Orleans-style coffee shop that serves café au lait and beignets; a bakery that lists madeleines and macaroons on its menu; an intimate downtown movie theater with award-winning movies, a wine bar, and European candies and coffee at its concessions stand; a boutique hotel (it’s coming soon in the old Montgomery Ward building!); a drug store/pharmacy; and more restaurants (I know of at least two, possibly three, that plan to open in upcoming months: one in the former Montgomery Ward building and the Fleet Street Pub, patterned after the owner’s restaurant of that name in Printer’s Alley in Nashville.

The Fleet Street Pub promises to be like no other restaurant in Jackson with signature dishes of shepherd’s pie, mulligatawny soup, homemade fish and chips served with mushy peas, curry, bangers and mash and homemade desserts like sticky toffee pudding. There will be a full service bar and sidewalk café and patio dining.

Recently I spent about an hour with Glenn Henderson, a native of Jackson, Tennessee who owns Fleet Street Pub in Printer’s Alley in Nashville. He is excited about opening a restaurant in his hometown. Like many of us, he sees downtown Jackson as “an emerging market!”

Many of the artists who perform at The Ned Performing Arts Center tell us that it is the finest facility of its kind and size. Have you seen its fabulous new marquee sign? Now if we can just land an office for the Convention and Visitors Center in the Greyhound Bus Station building! Oh, and one more thing while I’m dreaming…let’s order more historic downtown banners and extend them into the P.O.E.M.S. district of East Main Street thereby further integrating historic East Main Street into our downtown plan as they have done in Franklin, Tennessee in its residential area that blends into its thriving downtown. The zoning of East Main Street is such that a fine old home in that block could be transformed into an elegant bed and breakfast like the Dupont Mansion in Old Louisville, Kentucky; an antique shop with a tea room; or an attractive law office.

In the fall about 1,000 students will be enrolled at the UofM Lambuth campus! They will be using the bike and walking trails, the pocket parks with fitness equipment, and frequenting our restaurants and shops.

A few days ago Main Street directors from across the state of Tennessee visited downtown Jackson. Some had not visited Jackson in several years and others had never been here. According to Matt Altobell of JDDC, “they were blown away by our downtown and by the homes on East Main, Cumberland (The Cumberland House is gorgeous!) and Deaderick Streets!”

They had “a huge time,” Matt told me. “What we’re doing here continues to be a model that inspires people in other cities!”