Why Gabriel Prado is spending $60 million on lofts in Fondren

Gabriel Prado moved to Mississippi from California in 2007 and lived in a small house on the north end of Fondren.

Now, more than 15 years later, he has become a developer and CEO of PraCon Global Investment Group and intends to pour $60 million into the neighborhood where he first lived.

Before the end of the year, Prado’s group hopes to break ground on 115 high-end lofts called Prado Lofts at Meadowview, a project that would raze the old McRae’s building on Meadowbrook Road and build in its place.

“My brother and his wife and my goddaughter live just a couple of blocks from there,” Prado said. “I lived there in that house many years ago, and now they live there. So, I have a personal feeling attached to that place and that area of town.”

In that time, he said he has witnessed how a vacant building, like the McRae’s  Building, can harm a community, even from the standpoint of people’s psyche.

“I really have seen what an empty building does to a place and an entire neighborhood,” Prado said. “I used to drive by that building many times and used to think that if this building would change, it could change the entire area. Over the years, no one has really put their money there because it is high risk.”

Prado is making his dream a reality now, and he knows there will be skeptics about this project and where he is building.

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“In my opinion, it is high risk, but that comes with a high reward,” Prado said. “I am a big believer in Jackson and the Jackson Metro area. I think that even with its challenges, this project represents a huge opportunity.

“It also goes back to bringing a product to this area that makes people want to stay here,” he said. “When I was living in the Fondren area where my brother now lives, there were many times that I looked for another place to live. Instead of doing that, I decided to stay and make the place where I am a better place. That is the driving force behind why I am building this.”

Prado said the project will be the highest-end loft-style condominiums in the area, comparable to The District at Eastover or The Meridian in Fondren.

“The whole goal here is to provide a high-end product, but to do it in a community where it is going to make a social impact like the northern end of Fondren,” he said. “We saw that 20 years ago when Mike Peters came to Fondren and started redeveloping all of this area.”

The $60 million represents a big commitment and a commitment to the Jackson Metro area in general. Prado’s company is headquartered in Fondren and is a private, family-owned company.

He said the McRae’s building is an eyesore for the community. 

“It has become a place for criminals, homeless people and people of that nature,” Prado said. “We are going to eradicate all of that. We are going to tear down every single building there, and we will build from the ground up.

“Our investment strategy is to make a profit, but at the end of the day, we want to make a social impact in the community,” Prado said.

The city rezoned the property for the project in April. Now, all that is left is finalizing the plans for final permitting. The goal is to break ground before the end of the year with the demolition of the McRae’s building beginning at the end of August or September.

“I believe this project will help redevelop the entire northern end of Fondren, and I am putting my money where my mouth is to the tune of $60 million,” Prado said.

“And it is not just my feeling about it, but we had a feasibility study done that supports what we want to do. We are working with Origin Bank, and they share our enthusiasm for the project and are 100% behind us. That speaks to the commitment we have with our financial partners.”

The average range for a unit at Prado Lofts will be $1,900 a month.

The facility will house lofts with a courtyard, a swimming pool, a Peloton room and a study room.

“My plan goes beyond this building,” Prado said. “My vision for this area is to plant this anchor and then redevelop the rest of the sites around it. That is a long-term vision we have.”

Prado envisions returning the area to its former glory of more than 50 years ago.

“This Meadowbrook area used to be the epicenter of entertainment and retail for the area,” Prado said. “That’s where a movie theater was. That’s where Primo’s was. We can bring that type of life back to the area. If you think about what has gone on in Memphis, Birmingham and many other metropolises, they have been through many of the same things that Jackson is going through now. But they have come back stronger.”

Prado believes the Prado Lofts development is the first step to accomplishing those goals.

“The long-term vision is to redevelop all of the area surrounding this project so that we can extend the medical district, which is our niche target for creating the lofts,” Prado said. “We want to extend the medical district into the northern Fondren area.”

Ross Reily can be reached by email at rreily@gannett.com or 601-573-2952. You can follow him on Twitter @GreenOkra1.

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