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City officials say progress being made on King Edward Hotel project

The process of seeking bids for environmental cleanup and debris removal at the dilapidated King Edward Hotel will soon begin and city officials say they are now encouraged the project is moving in the right direction.

The King Edward Hotel has stood vacant in downtown Jackson since 1967 while proposals to refurbish the dilapidated building have hit major funding snags.

After 15 years of talks about reviving the hotel, city officials said last year the money was in place to move forward with plans to turn the 83-year-old King Edward into 72 high-end one- and two-bedroom condominiums and 152 hotel rooms.

However, the $55 million project, which was supposed to wrap up this year, has been plagued by delays, such as trouble securing grant and loan money for the environmental cleanup.

Developers now predict it will be completed by mid-2008.

Workers began pumping eight feet of water from the basement of the landmark on Thursday so the inspection of the property could be completed.

“It’s going to take about a week to pump it out,” developer David Watkins said. “But the building is a go, and were as excited as we could be.”

Architects and engineers have not been able to inspect that part of the long-deserted building because of flooding from artesian wells that lie underneath, Watkins said.

Inspections began three weeks ago and will determine what kind of equipment and crews are needed to conduct the environmental cleanup of the property. The cleanup could begin in early October, said Jimmy Heidel, the city’s economic development consultant.

The new King Edward will include an upscale hotel located on the first seven floors and residential space on the top five floors. Loft-style office space will replace the adjacent parking garage, and a gym and spa will be constructed on the grounds.

“I just think we finally are going to get this off the ground, and it’s going to be a reality,” Heidel said.

Since taking office in July 2005, Mayor Frank Melton has criticized the project’s slow pace. He first threatened to implode the hotel and then said he would bring in a new developer if work did not begin by August. During the last month, Melton has adopted a supportive stance.

“I went by there the other day and saw some men in hard hats working on the building, and I just said, Thank God,” Melton said Thursday. “I was just so pleased were finally getting something done.”