September 1, 2007
Regions looking for new home?
• Proposed Ridgeland site may tempt banking giant
By Elizabeth Crisp
Regions Bank, which considers downtown Jackson its home, might become a tenant in the proposed 200 Renaissance building on Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland.
"We are always looking for opportunities to expand our operations where there is growth," said Chad Cargile, Regions consumer banking executive for south Mississippi. "We want to be where our customers are."
Just weeks ago, Renaissance developers H.C. Bailey Cos. and Mattiace Properties asked the city of Ridgeland to specially approve a 17-story building, rather than the four stories allowed by ordinance.
"We have three anchor businesses coming in," said Stewart Speed, president of Colony Properties, an H.C. Bailey company. "We need that amount of space to meet their current needs and their future needs."
The request, which has divided residents and business leaders, will go before Ridgeland's Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 10, and city aldermen could vote on it as early as Sept. 18.
Previously announced tenants include the Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada law firm and the Horne CPA Group. Both plan to move their headquarters from the downtown AmSouth Plaza building in 2009.
In the developers' petition for the special exception, the third tenant is described as being "perhaps the headquarters of another corporation."
The discussion has centered around Regions, which recently merged with AmSouth Bank. Cargile said Regions has not made an official commitment to the Renaissance building, and Speed would not comment on Regions as a possible tenant.
Regions, with its headquarters in the AmSouth Plaza building, considers Jackson its "home," Cargile said, but the company is "looking at a lot of opportunities to expand."
The company has a "long-term" lease in the AmSouth building, Cargile said, but he did not know when it would expire.
"We have no plans to vacate this area," he said. "Our headquarters is in Jackson."
Other companies that have moved to Highland Colony include Merrill Lynch, Cellular South and BankPlus.
Highland Colony, a four-lane boulevard lined with bushy trees and dotted with stately office buildings and upscale commercial properties, has been a major growth spot for the area.
Yet residents and businesses are taking sides over 200 Renaissance's height.
Opponents of the project started by creating a group called Zoning Ordinances Need Enforcement. Colette Mcintyre, one of the people who has worked with organizing ZONE, has said she opposes the rezoning because it goes against the city's goals for its master plan.
"If we go against the zoning in this area, it could happen no matter where you live - the Reservoir or Highland Colony," she said. "You don't see any 17-story buildings in Madison. They wouldn't allow it there."
Others see it as an opportunity for Ridgeland to expand its status as a major real estate and business player.
Kevin Crothers, president of the Harbortowne Property Owners' Association, is happy to see big firms considering Ridgeland for their headquarters.
"These are fine people and are well known for attracting more of the same," he said.
He said he believes some people have gotten used to the Parkway being a relatively calm roadway often used for biking.
"That's not what it was meant to be," he said. "It's so much more than that."
Butler Snow Chairman Don Clark said in a prepared statement that his company is aware of the concerns of some residents, and he reiterated support for the 17-story building.
"We believe this office development will be a huge economic stimulus for Ridgeland, or any other city for that matter," Clark said. "We have grave concerns about some of the opinions being expressed in opposition to the 200 Renaissance building."
Clark said the law firm will "be forced to re-examine all our options for office space" if the building is not built as it is designed.