Student Housing: $65M stadium project collapses

by Jimmie E. Gates for

A $65 million development once proposed for state-owned land at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium has fallen through – and a Texas company that leased the five acres for the project owes the state more than $1 million in back rent.

A Hinds County Circuit judge has issued a default judgment against Madison Communities Ltd. of Plano, Texas.

Circuit Judge Swan Yerger ruled Madison Communities owes the state $1.030 million in back payments for the lease from July 2008 until June 2010 and $7.6 million for future payments due from July 2010 until the end of the lease in June 2031.

Madison Communities officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

M. Bennett Chotard of Chotard State Street Development of Ridgeland joined the state Department of Finance and Administration in filing the default judgment against the company. Yerger ruled last week.

Chotard, who oversees leases to develop land at Memorial Stadium, said Madison Communities entered a 40-year lease with a 10-year renewal option to develop about 5.2 acres on North State Street across from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The land sits between Back Yard Burgers and the former Schimmel’s restaurant.

Chotard said Madison Communities’ development plan included student housing, a medical office building, retail space and a hotel.

“But problems with the economy hit the company, and he defaulted,” Chotard said of the Texas company.

Now, it’s back to the planning stages for the property, Chotard said. “Whatever we do, we will be gathering UMC’s needs,” Chotard said.

UMC long has eyed the stadium property for expansion of its facilities and for development of housing and a service industry that would bolster the students, staff and patients of the hospital.

There has been talk over the years of demolishing Memorial Stadium, the home of Jackson State University’s football team, to make way for more UMC development.

Dr. David Powe, UMC’s associate vice chancellor for administrative affairs, said the medical center has worked closely with the former Stadium Commission, DFA and Chotard to come up with plans for developing the land.

In 1993, the now-abolished Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium Commission entered into a lease with Chotard to develop about 11 acres surrounding the stadium.

Then-Jackson Mayor Kane Ditto filed suit in February 1994, alleging among several issues that developing the property would impede travel, be a nuisance and destroy the aesthetic quality of the surroundings. A Hinds County Circuit judge dismissed Ditto’s challenge. In 1996, the state Supreme Court upheld the judge’s ruling.


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