School could aid Oxford Commons

OXFORD – Principals behind Oxford Commons think the construction of a new Oxford High School will boost the planned unit development.
The Commons incorporates more than 750 acres east of Highway 7 near Oxford’s northeast corner. It is planned as a mixed-use area of retail, professional, entertainment and residential spaces, with residences from storeloft apartments to townhouses to four-acre equestrian estates. The front 20 acres is planned to house a block of retail specialty shops and restaurants reminiscent of the Oxford Square, anchored by the existing 11-screen movieplex.
“What we’ve tried to accomplish (in the plan) is almost a self-contained town with a friendly interface with Oxford,” said Memphis-based developer Kenneth Farrell. “The high school is a 75-acre component of that.”
Farrell is working with principal owners Tom and Murray Avent on fulfilling the master plan. Farrell’s former business partner, Lance Forsdick Jr., continues to have an interest in the Square area.
Oxford Commons began in 2005 with the potential of bringing to east Oxford some of the commercial boom that the town’s west end had seen. After the theater and a Wendy’s hamburger restaurant were built, the recession halted development, and the theater has remained closed for much of its existence.
Even before the high school is begun, however, there are signs of life. A new Hampton Inn is under construction across from Oxford Conference Center. The opening of Della Davidson Elementary School in 2007 has brought a steady stream of twice-a-day traffic to the area. Developers have talked with Baptist Memorial Healthcare leaders about locating its proposed new hospital in the Commons.
Farrell said the development team anticipates eventually landing several national retailers, including some anchor stores, that had expressed interest in Oxford Commons before the recession began.
“Since the economy has stabilized they’ve concentrated on primary markets,” he said. “But Oxford’s high on their list of secondary markets.”
Victor Hammond, general manager of the Wendy’s restaurant in Oxford Commons, said the new high school’s construction – and any development that follows it – will be good for his business.
“It’ll bring sales to the area,” he said. “We need more things to happen in this development.”
Farrell, who gives high marks to Oxford’s Planning Department and Planning Commission, said it has been important to adhere to the master plan’s principles for Oxford Commons even through the recession.
“You could do all sorts of things in the beginning that would compromise what you could do later,” he said. “A well-planned development really is something better than the sum of the parts.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal