A Letter to the Taxpayers of Mississippi
In March of 2011, news leaked out that the Department of Revenue
(formerly the State Tax Commission), was planning on constructing a
$50 million dollar edifice in pristine, wooded state owned property on
Lakeland Drive. The new building would have been funded through a
state backed bond issue. Public outcry resulted in a reevaluation of not
only this location, but the entire process involved regarding state owned
and leased office properties. A law was passed creating a specific website
listing any leasing opportunities which has resulted in more transparency
and fewer surprises in the procurement process.
Additionally, the State then entered into a contract with Cushman and
Wakefield (C&W), an internationally renowned real estate consulting
firm from Atlanta, Georgia. C&W was hired to evaluate all potential
properties in the Jackson area and to recommend the best location for
the Department of Revenue (DOR) to the Department of Finance and
Administration (DFA). After an exhaustive process, the top 4 choices were:
1. Landmark Center- lease (Downtown)
2. Landmark Center (purchase)
3. Regions Plaza- lease (Downtown) and
4. South Pointe- leases (Clinton)
Shortly after these findings, Kevin Upchurch, the Executive Director of
the DFA, sent a letter to then Governor Barbour recommending that the
state go forward with either leasing or purchasing the Landmark Center
Downtown for the new offices of the DOR. Governor Barbour then wrote
the legislature recommending this location as well. The vote to approve
was 52-0 in the Senate. However, the Speaker did not allow a vote on the
bill so it died in the House. Politics had reared its head, and the “site reset
button” was pushed.
Since that time, the purchase price of the Landmark Center had dropped
from $14.1mm to $7.4mm. Realizing that (and realizing the purchase of the
building was number 2 in the C&W study) and ascertaining what impact
this would have on the prior study, Downtown Jackson Partners entered
into a contract with Millsaps College’s Else School of Management for
further analysis. This second study clearly indicated that purchasing the
Landmark Center was the best use of taxpayer dollars and would save the
State of Mississippi $30mm over the next 20 years.
Additionally, the Millsaps study was broader in scope than the C&W
report, as it illuminated the abundance of office space the State leases per
employee. Compared to the GSA federal standards (218 rentable square
feet per employee) and to the states of Texas (225 rsf per employee) and
Virginia (222 rsf per employee), the state of Mississippi averages 323 rsf
per employee which is almost 50% more than GSA, Texas and Virginia.
Reducing the square footage of office lease space to the standards used by
our federal government and these two states would result in an additional
$5mm in annual savings.
Of course each city presenting a proposal would love to welcome the
DOR as its new neighbors. Downtown certainly would, and relocating
downtown would certainly help our challenged market. The real issue for
all the taxpayers of the State, however, is prudent expenditure of our tax
dollars. Two separate studies by two separate, reputable organizations,
whose integrity cannot be challenged, have concluded the same thing.
The Landmark Center Downtown is the clear choice. This is an important
issue that doesn’t need to be determined by lobbyists or political favor.
All of the above can be verified on the Downtown Jackson Partners website
under “Articles of Interest”.
Jim Barksdale John Palmer Leland Speed