Stretch of tracks in downtown Jackson to see improvements

The Associated Press

JACKSON – A stretch of railroad tracks in downtown will soon receive a multimillion-dollar facelift, city officials say.

Construction will begin in the spring on the Mill Street viaduct from Amite to Pascagoula streets. Plans include a market, clock tower, a brick facade for a bridge and wider sidewalks.

The cost has been estimated at $7 million. The city recently requested construction bids, and work could last about 18 months.

The bridge is now covered by a hodgepodge of colorful murals. Spaces underneath the tracks have been home to vagrants over the years.

“Certainly, it forms a barrier between two sides of town,” said Jackson architect Bob Canizaro, who is designing the project. “(The project's) going to create an attractive edge of town.”

A 35-foot clock tower in a small plaza will sit in the intersection of Capitol and Mill streets. And a market will be inside a now-vacant building underneath the bridge at Capitol Street, south of the Union Station Depot transportation hub.

“When we dress this thing up, it's going to look very attractive and like a dynamic area,” said attorney David Watkins, whose office is in Union Station.

Watkins is redeveloping the King Edward Hotel with Historic Restoration Inc. of New Orleans and New Orleans Saints running back and former University of Mississippi star Deuce McAllister. The landmark towers over the viaduct.

The market and artwork will help attract shops and offices to the hotel, Watkins said. Construction on the King Edward could begin in mid-2005.

Click video to hear audio