If you don’t ask the question, how can you know the answer?
In an editorial published on Nov. 26 entitled “Jackson motel isn’t that historic” regarding the proposed Mississippi Landmark listing currently under consideration for the Sun-n-Sand Motor Hotel, The Greenwood Commonwealth stated, “An honest assessment, though, should show that it’s unlikely the motel’s buildings are worth saving. The obvious questions are, How much would it cost to make them useful again, and what would they be used for?”
Thank you, Greenwood Commonwealth, for making our case. There are many questions that still need to be addressed before calling in the bulldozers to demolish this modernist icon that speaks to Mississippi’s political, literary and civil rights history for a parking lot.
Since the Sun-n-Sand was listed as one of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2005, the Mississippi Heritage Trust has fielded numerous calls from developers eager to take on this so-called lost cause. These creative, smart people were consistently rebuffed by the owner, who had no incentive to lose the steady stream of income that the state of Mississippi paid to use the hotel’s parking lot.
We now have an opportunity to recoup the state’s $1 million investment in purchasing the property, save the state the cost of demolition, hazardous materials remediation and parking lot construction, and put a derelict building back on the tax rolls. All by asking the right questions.
And while mid-century modern might not be The Greenwood Commonwealth’s cup of tea, savvy developers in Islamorada, Santa Rosa, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Francisco, Marfa and Boston (to name but a few) have cashed in on the growing love for modernist design by bringing old motels back to life with smashing results. It was not so long ago that the Hotel Irving, now the crown jewel of historic downtown Greenwood, was considered by many to be too far gone to save.
The Mississippi Heritage Trust is willing to facilitate a development study to assess how best to repurpose the Sun-n-Sand. What could it be? Well, what does Jackson need? Surely not another parking lot.