An attorney and community activist with a soft spot for the creative world, small business and the future of Jackson development is calling a historic Fondren landmark home. David Pharr, a lifelong Jacksonian with large downtown law firm experience has branched out and opened his own law practice in the front of the Pix-Capri. And there’s no reason why he shouldn’t claim a space. After all, he’s paying the mortgage on the historic theater.
Pharr is a part of the Pix Development Corporation, a small group of investors who saved the beleaguered movie house by purchasing the space last year. “I wanted to be centrally located and, in looking for good office space, none was available in Fondren,” he said. That’s when he convinced his Pix partners to allow him to take up space there in exchange for renovations and improvements on a small part of the building. “I realized I was already paying a mortgage on an extremely nice spot where I wanted to be. When I got serious about leaving the (downtown) firm, I wanted to bring this building back to life — literally.”
The first full-time tenant at the theater in 20 years, Pharr said there couldn’t be a better spot in town to start his practice. “It was the birth place of some legendary stores in town,” he told us. Pharr took us on a tour of his first and second floor space and showed us where Bebop Record Shop and The Rouge had record and clothing bins when they occupied the space long ago. “That’s been a conversation starter when I tell people about my office.”
A 1997 graduate of Ole Miss law school, Pharr had spent fifteen years in the corporate legal world before hanging a shingle in Fondren late last year. That decade and a half was in business litigation, insurance, intellectual property and employment law, among others. Now, in his new practice, Pharr hopes to represent small and medium size businesses. “I don’t have a big staff but I have the big firm experience that I can offer for much more flexible rates,” he explained. “We’re heavy on contract negotiation and drafting, preventive law and advice to protect businesses and individuals.”
Pharr is also the CEO of The Donor Tree, an online fundraising company started two years ago by Quentin and Ginger Whitwell. The non-profit is a class project of the Millsaps Else School. “Part of the pull into business is that I want to have the perspective of owning a business,” he said. “That’s something that will inform my law practice. He’s also on an advisory committee at The University of Mississippi Medical Center to help the school and hospital license academic research and development to the private sector. He points to Birmingham’s Innovation Depot as a model for Mississippi.
Active in the community through the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership’s board, Rotary, Team Jackson, Vision 2022 and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, Pharr, his wife and two children make their home east of Fondren in the neighborhood known as “Leftover.” But his love for all things Fondren goes back to his childhood. “I used to see movies here at The Capri as a kid,” he said. And it’s part of the reason, he explained, he’s pursued real estate development.
When he was a part of Leadership Jackson ten years ago and the forming of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, Pharr called it “a critical time in our history” with so much tax base leaving for the suburbs. After a couple of years, serving on the Jackson Chamber’s parent organization’s board, Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, Pharr said it was obvious what city, chamber and civic groups were doing was real estate development. “I just caught the bug for it,” he said. “I knew I wanted to get involved directly.
Enter last year’s partnership with Jason Watkins who was looking for a group to buy the theater. “Now that the King Edward is developed, The Capri is the last architecturally significant landmark not in development.” Pharr said. He had followed news of The Capri’s endangerment with some past owners and was concerned it might be gone. “I’m happy to be part of a team committed to keeping it.”
Directionally, Pharr won’t jump out (and say) “until they’re ready” as far as Capri plans are concerned. He told us the partners are still evaluating a best plan for reopening the Capri as a theater with some sort of dine-in component. “It’s a complicated and expensive project that we as investors do something toward everyday,” he explained.
Once construction does begin, Pharr will be back to square one in the hunt for a home for his law office. “I’ve definitely caught the Fondren office bug,” he laughed. “After I evict myself so that we can begin renovation here, I will definitely be looking for a space in Fondren.”
Join the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership today (Thursday, March 7, 2013) at 4:30pm for a ribbon cutting at Pharr’s office at 3023 North State Street.