Leroy Smith redeveloped a run-down area of Denver and believes he can do the same thing with the Farish Street Historic District in Jackson, which was a booming black business neighborhood at one time, years ago. Smith put together investors, architects, and contractors in the past and believes he can do the same thing in Jackson.
With thirty years in commercial development, Smith was involved in the renaissance of the historic Five Points neighborhood in Denver. Nicknamed the “Harlem of the West”, it was a major business and entertainment area in the 1930s and 1940s. Duke Ellington and Billie Holliday made appearances there, but the area started to decline around 1960.
The Farish Street Group (FSG) had an agreement with the Jackson Redevelopment Authority (JRA) to rehabilitate the Farish Street Historic District. The Farish Street Group held a lease on the area until a few years ago. However, a series of liens and lawsuits have tied up progress. The Jackson Redevelopment Authority was ordered to listen to what Smith had in mind as a possible way of moving forward. Smith believes he can move things forward as he did in Denver.
Smith has enlisted the support of Harvey Freelon, who owns a popular restaurant on in the Farish Street Historic District. Smith’s company is LCS Land Development LLC, and he had lined up $100 million worth of investors for the district. However, the investors decide to pull out. In the meantime, a person named Jay Carter has come on board. He is working to bring in foreign investors. The federal EB-5 visa program gives green cards to those investing $500,000 to $1 million in the U.S. Carter is also managing partner of many real estate limited liability corporations.
At a meeting with Jackson Redevelopment Authority commissioners a while back, Smith outlined his plans for the Farish Street Historic District. He would work one block at a time and start by restoring six buildings that would be mostly bars and restaurants. Then a small hotel and tech center would be added as well as a music hall, and sound recording studios to round out the redevelopment.
A business that is currently operating in the Farish Street Historic District is Farish Street Records. Dorothy Moore established the entity in 2002, and it honors a time when Farish Street contained all sorts of music venues with packed houses every night. In the day, Robert Johnson, Charlie Parker, and Jelly Roll Morton called Farish Street home. Other folks who performed there included Mississippi John Hurt, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington. Trumpet Records and Ace Records, were headquartered in the historic district for an extended period.
Nat King Cole, Elmore James, and Otis Span appeared at the Alamo Theater on historic Farish Street. The historic theater has been renovated and is proudly community owned and features many performances. Peaches Cafe and the Big Apple Inn also focus on presenting live music.