Downtown furniture store wins reprieve

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 2004

Mary Landers, owner of Discount Furniture Barn on Jackson Street, discusses plans for her store.(Brian Loden The Vicksburg Post)

[9/3/04]Vicksburg officials have backed off court action to take a downtown property by eminent domain and will leave the business in place.

Bobby Robinson, city associate attorney, said a motion to dismiss the case against the Discount Furniture Barn was sent this week to the special court of eminent domain. County Court Judge Johnny Price presides over that court and signed the order Thursday, his administrative assistant said.

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Mary Landers, owner of Discount Furniture Barn, said it was a big relief to learn that the case is ending a year after it began.

“That’s what we wanted. We said from the beginning that it wasn’t for sale,” Landers said.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said the city will shelve plans for an open-air amphitheater on the hill where the building now sits, but may develop some additional landscaping in the area.

“We’re just not going to pursue it right now because they don’t want to sell and we don’t want to go through the procedure right now,” Leyens said.

The city, in the process of redeveloping the City Front area, had offered $125,000 last year for the building at 600 Jackson St. When the property owners Henry Heggins, Landers’ father, and T.D. Easterling rejected that offer, the city opted to take them to court.

Instead of a $1.4 million amphitheater on the hillside where the building sits, the money will go to the proposed downtown art park development about a block South, said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

Under state statute, municipalities can declare an urban renewal zone and buy property deemed slums and blight for public use. The Discount Furniture Barn building was never declared a blighting influence, but city officials said it did not fit into the overall plans for the area, centered on the old Levee Street Depot.

Landers, who inherited partial ownership of the property after her father died this summer, said the furniture business is doing just fine there and that she plans to remodel the building.

“Just leave us alone and let us continue our business like we’ve been doing for 31 years,” she said.

Landers also said she was appreciative to all the people who called and offered support in her fight to keep the business.

The store was opened by her father in 1973 and Landers, who took it over 21 years ago, said she plans to keep the business in the family.

Other plans for that area included renovating the 95-year-old depot, purchased in 2001 for $215,000, the $2.6 million downtown art park now under contract and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers museum and interpretive center which has yet to be fully funded.

Since the lawsuit was dropped by Vicksburg, the city will have to pay for Landers’ legal expenses, said City Attorney Nancy Thomas. Thomas said that the city had not yet received the bill from Landers’ lawyer and that she does not know how much it will cost.