STEPHEN W. ROSENBLATT
POST OFFICE BOX 22567
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 39225-2567
FACSIMILE: (601) 985-4500
August 31 , 2007
VIA E-MAIL - Mayor.McGee@Ridgelandms.org
Honorable Gene F. McGee
Mayor, City of Ridgeland
304 Highway 51
Ridgeland, Mississippi 39158-0217
Re: Proposed Office Building - Renaissance
Dear Mayor McGee:
I started just to drop you a note about the new office building being planned for the Renaissance development, but it turned into this much longer letter. I understand that this building has created some interest and controversy among some of the residents to the west of Highland Colony Parkway.
I am very interested in this building for several reasons. First, I live less than a mile from the proposed building in the Hillview Subdivision on Richardson Road (Ward 1). We have lived there since 1993. I have a significant investment in my house, and I want to preserve that investment. Second, in the larger sense, I have been a citizen of Ridgeland, and I am interested in its continued growth and development. During your tenure as Mayor and with the leadership of our Board of Aldermen, Ridgeland has grown and prospered. I was impressed with your vision for Ridgeland as expressed in the two Master Planning sessions that the City recently conducted. Finally, I am a member of the Butler Snow law firm, a tenant in the new building, so I have an interest in the building from that perspective as well.
Permit me to share my thoughts with you (and, by copy of this letter each of our Aldermen) about this building and the requested height variance. I believe the City should set aside some of the emotional reactions that this request has generated to examine the facts related to the following issues. If it does, I believe it will grant the requested variance.
1. Effect on Residential Property Values. I believe that this building will help - not hurt - surrounding property values. The addition of hundreds of highly paid professionals and executives who want to live near their office will only increase demand for homes in this area. There are at least three examples from neighboring states of this combination - the Mountain Brook, Alabama area (south of Birmingham) and the Cool Springs area near Franklin Tennessee (just south of Nashville) which just attracted Verizon Wireless to build a $54 million regional headquarters facility, and the area on the perimeter in north Atlanta.
2. Quality of the Building. This building has been designed by Cooper Carry, a recognized architectural firm from Atlanta, in association with Dale and Associates of Jackson. It will be one of the most beautiful and prestigious buildings in the state of Mississippi. It also will be a state-of-the art building and the only building of its size in the state of Mississippi that has been certified as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green" building. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance "green" buildings. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. This is a very special building that will help bring positive recognition to Ridgeland and help Ridgeland attract the kind of business and professional persons it wants to attract.
3. Quality of Tenants. Related to the impact on residential values one cannot overlook that the Developer has been successful in securing agreements from two outstanding professional service firms (and perhaps the state headquarters of a Fortune 100 company) to occupy the building. These professionals and executives and their employees will be attracted to living, as well as working, in Ridgeland and to devote their civic energies to furthering the interest of Ridgeland. Thus, this building will provide multiple benefits to the City of Ridgeland and to the communities surrounding this development - directly and indirectly, objectively and subjectively, economically and civically.
4. Traffic. While this building will add some traffic to Renaissance, it will not be a substantial amount, and the impact of this building on traffic will be negligible compared to the traffic at the shops and restaurants at Renaissance. Additionally, the hours of the traffc at this building housing professional services firms will complement the hours for the remainder of Renaissance. Finally, this building will be located directly adjacent to I-55 to take advantage of the new frontage road and the new interchange, a portion of which is already under construction. These improvements were implemented with the development of Renaissance in mind, and they will improve traffic flow in and around Old Agency Road and Highland Colony Parkway.
5. Height of Building. Although this building will be taller than the Cellular South building, it is adjacent to the interstate highway, not toward adjacent to or west of Highland Colony Parkway. This building will be an attractive barrier to the interstate and help insulate the neighborhoods to the west. It will be a positive influence, rather than a negative one, for the residential and other commercial development west of the interstate. The new building, although taller than the Cellular South building, will be further to the east and probably less visible to those living west of Highland Colony than the Cellular South building.
6. Location of the Building. As you know, this building will be located directly adjacent to I-55 at the intersection of the new frontage road and Steed Road. At that location, it actually will serve as a buffer to the neighborhoods to the west, including mine. It is appropriately placed as the easternmost office building in the Renaissance development. If it were placed west of Highland Colony, or even where the Merrill Lynch building is located, these issues would be more relevant.
7. Tax Base and Economic Activity. The building will add approximately $60 million to the property tax base of Ridgeland. Secondary effects from sales taxes at area shops and restaurants from those working in or visiting the building also will generate sales tax revenue for the City. As much as Ridgeland needs to continue to develop quality subdivisions and increase the percentage of single-family residences in comparison to multi-family residences, it also needs high-end commercial developments. Unlike residential development, a Class "A" office building pays more in taxes than it consumes in city services. This positive impact makes possible better roads better schools and better city services for all Ridgeland residents.
8. Ridgeland’s Future. Most cities would work very hard to have a 17-story state-of-the-art building built within their limits. As I mentioned earlier, the City of Franklin (Tennessee) recently attracted the headquarters of Verizon (much to the chagrin of Nashville) in large measure because Franklin recognized and appreciated the positive benefits for having an upscale office building. A denial of the requested variance will sends a message to area developers and businesses that Ridgeland is unwilling to take the necessary steps to attract these kinds of businesses to their community and to take the necessary steps to bring continued economic growth and prosperity. If this variance is denied, Ridgeland runs the risk of negative repercussions for years to come. This would undercut Ridgeland's slogan that it is "Open for Business.
9. Precedent. This is the last location remaining to be developed in Renaissance. This building will fit nicely with the other offce buildings and the hotel that have been built or are planned for the Renaissance. Furthermore there are few, if any, remaining spots along Highland Colony north of Steed Road to be developed in the City of Ridgeland. Because this is a unique situation involving the largest law firm and accounting firm in the state , it is unlikely that there will be a flood of developers requesting to have another Class "A" building of a similar height to be built. Finally, because this is a request for a Special Exception and not a zoning change, and the facts of this case are unique, no precedent is being set.
As you know, Butler Snow s commitment over a year ago to move its offices to Ridgeland to be in the Renaissance development was a major decision for our law firm. We paid a price when we decided to leave downtown Jackson to come to Ridgeland. While we have received some negative media coverage for that decision, we stil believe that decision was in the best interest of our firm and our clients. We hope the City of Ridgeland will take such steps as are necessary to help us realize the benefits we saw in moving our offces to this first-class office building in the Renaissance development.
For all of these reasons, I urge the City, through you and the Board of Aldermen, to approve the requested height variance for this new building.
Stephen W. Rosenblatt
Alderman Ken Heard, Ward 1 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Alderman Chuck Gautier, Ward 2 - chuck.gautier@ridgelandms. org
Alderman Kevin Holder, Ward 3 - email@example.com
Alderman Larry Roberts, Ward 4 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Alderman Scott Jones, Ward 5 – email@example.com
Alderman Linda Davis, Ward 6 - firstname.lastname@example.org