Supervisors help developers make $90 million improvements to Singing River Mall

Jackson County supervisors voted unanimously this morning to move forward with the county's part in a plan to revitalize Gautier's failing Singing River Mall.

The county will pledge tax revenue that supervisors expect will be generated by a new, thriving mall once the improvements are made. A developer is promising to put $90 million into the aging structure and some of the out parcels on the property.

Jackson County's part will be to pledge 75 percent of the new property taxes they expect to collect as the mall increases in value. The money will go to retire up to $20 million in revenue bonds for "infrastructure" improvements. The improvements could be parking, water and sewer, relocating or improving utilities, roads and curbs, traffic lights, landscaping and parking lot lighting, incidental costs and professional fees.

Supervisors were assured that if the project fails, the county will not be under an obligation to pay off the bonds. They said investors who buy the revenue bonds will get a higher interest rate because they know there's a risk.

A consultant told the board that 70 percent of the Singing River Mall is either empty or being rented on a month-to-month basis. Only two stores are long-term tenants, Sears and Belk, the consultant told the board. And Belk owns its own building. Read more in Tuesday's Sun Herald.