Open for business

Monday, November 8, 2004

Starting from Jackson's northern city limits, along U.S. 61, a picture begins to develop.

It's a picture that doesn't come in focus until one really looks for it.

The first snapshot is a newly constructed brick building with a large ivory-colored facade on the building's upper half.

There are 12 doors that will serve as entrances to this future commercial development.

A few hundred feet down the road on the right side of the highway, up a gravel driveway atop a hill stands a new blue and gray metal building that serves as the new home for Deer Ridge Animal Clinic.

As the road continues through town, as it winds around the courthouse and toward the biggest intersection, a marquee sign announces "Thriftway Drugs Now Open." A midnight-blue canopy highlights the brick building.

"The commercial stuff has really picked up," said Jackson planning and building superintendent Janet Sanders. "Since 1990, we've had so much residential development. Now, we're really seeing an increase in commercial development."

A left turn onto East Jackson Boulevard, the town's busiest commercial strip, reveals more new construction.

To the right is a new red and white car wash with two "soft touch" automatic bays, four self-serve bays and two covered bays for vacuum services.

Just past the car wash is a place called Marci's that sells antiques and collectibles. Once a house, the building has been remodeled and now looks more like a business.

Continuing southeast, a man in a red, long-sleeve shirt with a leather utility belt hanging from his waist sweeps the roof of an unfinished, gray brick building. The doors haven't been put on yet and there are puddles on the concrete floor inside. The signs out front announce the future of three new facilities -- a bakery, a Mexican restaurant and a Chinese restaurant.

"We've incurred commercial growth for quite a few years now," said Mayor Paul Sander. "It's just another sign that the community continues to progress and thrive. It helps the city with more tax revenue, which in turn helps the community. All of these stores, whether retail or otherwise, helps from a service standpoint. We become more of a self-sufficient community where we don't have to go outside the city limits."

Onward the development continues to take shape. Just a stone's throw from the muddy restaurant construction is another fairly new eating establishment, the Branding Iron, a log-cabin like structure that serves barbecue.

Across the parking lot is another new development housing the Movie Gallery and a Quizno's Sub. One-stop shopping for a take-home flick and a quick sandwich.

A few more businesses down the road, a man in a hooded sweat shirt and coat works at the peak of a roof. The First Midwest Bank's new facility is coming along quickly and offers a different look than most of the flat-roofed shops and businesses along this commercial strip.

Past Wal-Mart a new restaurant chain, Skinny's, has popped out of the ground. In just the last week, the marquee in front of the diner has changed from "now hiring" to "open." Skinny's is one of four sit-down restaurants that have opened this year or are under construction. Before this year, Jackson had 10 such restaurants and that includes two buffets and a couple of pizza joints.

"We've had a very good year," said Chamber of Commerce executive director Ken Parrett. "Above average for sure."

Past Skinny's, in a field off to the right where a water slide used to be, is overturned soil. The land is being prepared for new development.

At the next stoplight comes what could one day be a major thoroughfare. The city has plans to connect Old Orchard Road and East Jackson Boulevard one day. A left-hand turn here and another left just before Buchheit's reveals another major construction site where men in rubber boots plod through the mud. It's here where a new Ashley Home Furniture will be built, easily visible from Jackson Boulevard. Straight ahead is another new building, Duskin Auto Detailing.

A 10-minute drive reveals more than a dozen new developments in this town of 12,000.

And city leaders don't expect it to stop.

More retail possibilities

Backtracking across town on West Jackson Boulevard, two towering cranes parked at Hubble Creek represent the biggest construction project in town. The boulevard, which doubles as highways 34 and 72, will be widened to four lanes over the next year. City leaders expect that to open up several more retail possibilities.

Parrett, the chamber director, has said "a large retail operation" is currently looking at a location along the main strip, which could be either on the east or west side of Hope Street. He wouldn't elaborate.

The mayor said, "I expect to continue to see commercial development on the major corridors. Some day not long from now, there will be commercial development from the interstate all the way to the police station. Then there is the new highway being constructed as we speak. That, in time, will create commercial opportunities in that direction as well."

Parrett and Sander said there is some behind-the-scenes interest in industrial development as well. Neither would divulge any details, but both said there is some serious interest in the currently vacant industrial park on U.S. 61 north. Parrett said there is some new interest in the Jackson Industrial Development Corp.'s industrial park as well.

"It's just going to get better and better," Parrett said. "We're going to continue to do well, and we anticipate more development."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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