Gautier files eminent domain against Belk over rights to old Singing River Mall property

The City of Gautier is working to move forward with its plans to develop the old Singing River Mall property. But to do that means pushing back against Belk.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 10:34 AM CDT
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GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - The City of Gautier is working to move forward with its plans to develop the old Singing River Mall property. In order to do that, however, it means pushing back against the Belk corporation.

On Tuesday, the Gautier city council passed a resolution authorizing its attorneys to file condemnation proceedings against Belk Stores of Mississippi, LLC.

Those proceedings will not affect whether or not the department store is open for business. It would only take away Belk’s say in what is being developed on the old mall property.

According to a release from the city, Gautier recognized that the property had remained undeveloped since 2013 and had become a blighted and dilapidated parcel.

Gautier was able to purchase the 55-acre property last year for $5 million with the help of $3.5 million in RESTORE Act funding and $1.5 million from the state Legislature’s bond bill.

The city intends to redevelop the property to include construction of city facilities, a Mississippi Songwriters Performing Arts Center, and structures for retail, grocery and multi-family dwelling uses.

Gautier's new amphitheater has been designed with the capability of hosting large national acts.
Gautier's new amphitheater has been designed with the capability of hosting large national acts.(Allred Stolarski Architects)

Because Belk holds certain development rights and other property interests in the vacant mall property by virtue of an operating agreement dated July 11, 1978, and by virtue of the first amendment to the operating agreement dated June 20, 1980. Those rights impede and/or prevent the development of the property as intended by the city.

The city could not reach an agreement with Belk to purchase the rights it asserts against the property. In order for Gautier to proceed with its redevelopment plan, the city was forced to pass a resolution condemning Belk’s right in the property.

The property where the Belk store is located is not involved in the condemnation.

Christopher Howdeshell, an attorney from Hattiesburg experienced in eminent domain litigation, will represent the City of Gautier.

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