Once a hub for business, the Briarwood One building has become a haven for vagrants, drug use and illegal dumping

Published: May. 30, 2022 at 3:25 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - From graffiti reading “help each other or die” on the back staircase to the boxes of garbage sitting outside the main entrance, the Briarwood One office building has seen better days.

At one time, the building sitting at the corner of Briarwood Drive and the I-55 North Frontage Road was home to a for-profit college, attorneys, and other professionals.

Today, the facility’s main tenants are a handful of vagrants.

Meanwhile, many of the dark-colored windows that once distinguished the building from nearby properties have been busted out, while the former underground car park has become a cesspool, flooding with garbage and debris now that the electricity powering its pumps has been shut off.

Dr. Roger Parkes, a dentist who has an office nearby, is worried about the impact the dilapidated facility will have on his street.

He’s urging the city to step in, saying the out-of-state landowner has refused to keep the property up.

“I’ve been there since about 1987, and the street is very safe. You can see it’s very clean, and it’s a great place because it’s very convenient to the people that live in and around Jackson,” he said. “We’ve got an IHOP. And we got a Chili’s right over there. We have a Hampton Inn right across the street.”

“But this building, somebody needs to make it off-limits to the illegal activity that is happening in here now,” he said.

Since the electricity has been turned off, the basement parking area has flooded. The smell of...
Since the electricity has been turned off, the basement parking area has flooded. The smell of sewage and trash is present.(WLBT)

Parkes, who has led cleanup efforts along Briarwood, said the building has deteriorated significantly in the last five months, all after it was acquired by its current owner, Briarwood Realty Holding LLC.

According to Hinds County landroll filings, the Great Neck, N.Y.-company acquired the property in 2021. Prior to that, it was owned by 460 Briarwood Drive Holdings, LLC, in Maryland.

The latter notified the Secretary of State in March that it was “not transacting business in Mississippi and hearby surrenders its authority to transact business in the state.”

WLBT reached out to the current owners via phone and the email found on the Secretary of State filings but has not received a response.

Briarwood Realty Holding LLC is associated with Kohan Retail Investment Group, which owns the Vicksburg Mall, according to Kohan’s website.

Briarwood One is located in Ward 2, which is represented by Jackson City Councilwoman Angelique Lee.

According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s online traffic count maps, about 8,600 vehicles travel in front of each day along Briarwood, while another 100,000 or so travel along the interstate.

“This is a major thoroughfare into this ward coming right off the highway,” she said. “This is just sitting vacant, with holes all through the windows, you can tell that they’ve busted through the glass. It’s just, first of all, an eyesore. But second, it’s not safe, because it’s attracting unsavory people to this area.”

A handful of windows have been busted out on the front of the building, as have the doors going into the main entrance. On the backside, more windows have been knocked out, as have the rear doors.

Looking through one window, there are clear signs of habitation, including a makeshift clothesline and food wrappers.

Outside the rear entrance, one can see piles of debris, including a shopping cart and a leather sofa. There are also signs of drug use, with WLBT spotting a syringe in the parking lot.

A glimpse inside the rear entrance into the Briarwood One building.
A glimpse inside the rear entrance into the Briarwood One building.(WLBT)

One man, who identified himself as Davonte, said as many as 30 or 40 people have slept there at one time. Additionally, he said that one vagrant living there steals from nearby businesses, only to take them to the building.

Lee said she spoke with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, and says the current owner and his registered agent, have been served.

“We have not... physically been able to talk to them, but we have served them papers to let them know that they have a certain amount of time to get this building secured and cleaned up,” she said. “We’re still waiting for that process and might end up in court.”

In the meantime, she said she’s directed Jackson’s solid waste division to come out and clean up as often as possible.

“Of course, being vacant, people know to come and dump illegally. So, we’re just keeping solid waste out here as often as we can to pick up trash. We also have outreach workers that are coming by this building, occasionally to try to help with the homeless population... to see if they can help them find some housing.”

Lee and Parkes believe the building could be salvaged and restored.

Lee said she’d like to see Briarwood One redeveloped into condominiums.

For his part, Parkes says he’s talked to a potential developer about the site. He also thinks the unique shape of the building has something to offer.

“The triangle shape is very interesting. And it’s got some features architecturally, that if it were in great shape, it would be unbeatable,” he said. “It’s just that nothing lasts forever, right? But you can still preserve it. And it can’t be a place of disease and all kinds of other activities that are illegal.”

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