Department of Agriculture in midst of multi-million dollar negotiation to expand fairgrounds

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A plan to spend millions of state money on an expansion of the fairgrounds could soon be put into action.

Greymont Avenue runs all around the east and southside of the State Fairgrounds. On its 300 and 400 blocks, sits the old Dennery’s restaurant, OYO, and Regency Hotel.

Both of the hotels are still in business but Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson wants to transform them into part of the fairgrounds.

After building up a new trade market and growing annual events coming into the fairgrounds., Commissioner Gipson sees more opportunity sitting across the street.

“If you take a look at the properties now, you can tell they’ve been there quite some time,” Commissioner Gipson said. “Some of them were built in the ’60s or ’70s. The properties have some issues as far as structure and also just the maintenance, in general, they’re pretty well beyond repair.”

This all became possible after state legislators passed House Bill 766 back in 2018, giving the Department of Finance and Administration authority to provide funds to purchase property within the vicinity of the fairgrounds.

“We can only pay whatever fair market value is for these properties,” Commissioner Gipson added. “So, the law reads that we can get an appraisal which we have of each property. The owners can get an appraisal and the average of those two is the maximum we can pay.”

On the Department of Agriculture’s end, the appraisal for them came in around $4 million for the properties of OYO, Regency Hotel, and Dennery’s restaurant. Neighboring businesses see this as a good investment.

“That brings so many people into our business from all over the state and all over the country because we’re right here in the State Capital,” Vice President of Boots and More Jess Knight told us. “Everybody that comes around from barrel races to horse shows and different attractions for concerts to the basketball games and right now we have graduations.”

“All of the events we have here at the fairgrounds generate revenue and those revenues generate tax dollars to the City of Jackson,” Commissioner Gipson claimed. “So, one of our big problems is to have enough parking. It’s going to immediately solve that problem.”

With parts of the funding from House Bill 766, Commissioner Gipson also has his eyes on building a new well system to give the Fairgrounds an independent water supply.

“It will be a state well and we’re looking at putting it right over here in this parking area,” Commissioner Gipson stated. “That seems to be the best location to set up. Our first step is to do some test drilling to find out how deep the water is and then test to see what quality it is.”

Commissioner Gipson hopes to break ground on this part of the plan by next week. As for purchasing properties on Greymont, negotiations are expected to wrap up on July 1.

12 News reached out to the Regency and OYO Hotel owners for their interest in this deal, but neither wanted to comment. Dennery’s owner and the City of Jackson haven’t returned our calls for their take on this deal.

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