VOL. 119 | NO. 9 | Thursday, January 13, 2005
By Andy Meek
Development Blitz Continues in DeSoto
2004 characterized by retail, medical, industrial expansion
The Daily News
New retail development, an expanded regional hospital and money
to build 10 new schools were only some of the products of a year in which the
theme for DeSoto County was more, more, more.
The county saw more retail development, including the
much-anticipated 625,000-square-foot Southaven Towne Center, construction of
which began in late 2004. The open-air mall, slated to open in the fall, is expected
to give a big boost to Southaven sales tax revenue. Also in Southaven, the 1
million-square-foot DeSoto Pointe shopping center is slated to open by 2006. And
in Hernando, construction began on a Wal-Mart Supercenter, the largest retail
development so far in the city.
Responding to growth. More
school options were made possible by the passage of a $115 million school bond
issue in the spring, the largest in state history. Combined with additional monies,
the bond will fund construction of 10 schools in the next three years, and a new
middle and high school is already under construction east of Hernando and south
of Olive Branch.
DeSoto County property taxes increased slightly as a result
of the bond issue.
More residents also flocked to the North Mississippi county in 2004, adding to DeSotos meteoric population
growth. To help manage that growth, area officials are shoring up the
countywide sewer system. The ongoing $100 million public works project is the
largest in the countys history, and 2004 saw the project move ahead with construction
of a new $13.6 million wastewater treatment plant east of Hernando.
Breaking ground. Jim
McDougal, deputy planning director for DeSoto County, said 2004 was a year
characterized by breaking new ground. He pointed to FedExs announcement of a
nearly $60 million distribution hub in Olive Branch and the adoption of a
comprehensive plan for DeSoto County that stretches to 2030.
Our growth continues to happen, McDougal said. We figure
a kind of back-of-the-envelope estimate right now is that were in the 125,000
to 130,000 population range for the entire county, and thats up from 107,000
or 108,000 in 2000. Our building permits continue to break records, and we
dont see any end in sight.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics show
that DeSotos population increased by 16 percent in 2004. As a result, DeSoto
County has been ranked No. 39 among the fastest-growing counties in the nation,
said Vickie DuPree, executive director of the Olive
Branch Chamber of Commerce. Factors driving continued interest in the county include
low taxes and a good business environment, DuPree said.
McDougal said capital investment in the county remained high
in 2004, and existing businesses and industries took advantage of DeSotos
growth. With an expanding patient population, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto
began construction of a $175 million, 10-story bed tower that will include an
expanded emergency department and space for future additions. Baptist-DeSoto
opened in Southaven in 1988 and nearly doubled in size in 2001.
And Williams-Sonoma added 780,000 square feet of
distribution space in Olive Branch, where the home products retailer already
had more than 2 million square feet of space.
Legislative response. 2004
also saw a flurry of activity from DeSoto County legislators and developers in
response to growth. The countys Board of Supervisors and other local officials
drew up a wish list of items they want the Mississippi legislature to address, most
of which deal with tax and revenue issues. Among the items was a push by DeSoto
officials to redistribute casino revenues and to change the way the county gets
money back from property taxes, as spelled out in the states Homestead
David Armstrong, former DeSoto County administrator, said
the county has not been receiving the full amount it is supposed to be getting
under the law, which was drawn up to give eligible homeowners a reduction in property
In addition to those items, DeSotos legislative wish list included
a proposal to allow voters to approve an optional sales tax in order to reduce
the countys reliance on property taxes.
Crossing state lines. Last
year also saw developers north of the Mississippi line casting more attention
southward, and vice-versa. Mississippi developer Clay Lane moved forward with
plans to convert 377 acres of farmland in Walls into a heavily landscaped neighborhood
similar in concept to Harbor Town on Mud Island.
And a lot of developers from the Memphis and Germantown
area are beginning to develop in DeSoto County, said Bill Russell, county
supervisor for District 3. Thats just what we expect right now.
McDougal said another major development in the county in
2004 was the joint announcement by the Tennessee and Mississippi Departments of
Transportation of the recommended route for Interstate 69. A nearly 30-mile
section of the interstate will run east from the I-69/I-55 interchange and cut
across state Highway 305 south of Olive Branch.
The completed I-69 will pass through eight states, including
Tennessee and Mississippi, on its way from Canada to Mexico.