A Harbor Walk developer said he still needs an additional $195 million before he can begin construction on the project.

John Burwell, a principal of Main Harbor Development, said he is presently searching for a lender to finance the first phase of construction of his portion of the $1 billion Harbor Walk project.

Without these funds, Burwell will not be able to proceed with the project as planned, although he said they now have several leads.

"We've got to find a bank, an insurance company, or somebody to loan us [the money]," said Burwell. "We've talked to people all over the country. This is too big for any local (lender)."

Harbor Walk, located on Ross Barnett Reservoir, plans to feature a variety of lodging and retail space. Phase I includes the 200-room Hotel Valencia, a condominium, office space, restaurants, and boutiques.

This phase was scheduled to be completed this spring, but the lack of money has delayed the project.

Burwell said that despite the need for funds, he remains optimistic about the prospects for Harbor Walk.

He said that he still wants it to stand out and be unique among other developments in the area.

"We want to build something world-class," he said.

Burwell said that even if the $195 million does not materialize, he will still be able to develop the property in some fashion. He said that the property is too valuable to simply abandon.

"We'll build something," he said. "That land is too valuable. I could begin construction today, [and] I've got people who want to buy it now."

Mayor Gene McGee said he too remains optimistic, and understands that a project of this size can take some time to bring about.

"I'm anxious for the project to move forward, [but] I'm still optimistic," said McGee. "I think a project of this magnitude takes time."

Benny French, executive director of the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, which is leasing the land to Burwell, said Burwell is still keeping up with end of the agreement and making his payments on time.

French said they continue to wish Burwell the best on his project, as they remain hopeful that it will be completed.

"We continue to hope that he'll be able to pull it off," said French.

Burwell said $19 million has already been put into the first phase to fund preliminary work, this including money out of his own pocket.

Some old piers on the reservoir have also been demolished and new ones built, but beyond that, construction has not begun.

Once construction does begin, Burwell said his contractor, White Construction, has informed him that the offices, hotel, and condominiums will take 15 months, 16 months, and 22 months, respectively, to complete.

To make room for the Harbor Walk development, Ridgeland closed down Harbor Drive about 14 months ago for its relocation to the west, a move that a city official now says could have been delayed for much longer.

Public Works Director Mike McCollum said the road was shut down for the express purpose of allowing Main Harbor development to begin work.

"By relocating the road, it made the land available for development," said McCollum. "Burwell represented that he was ready to begin the project. At his request, we closed the road, [but] it was premature. We could have left Harbor Drive open much longer than we did."

Burwell agreed that Harbor Drive was, in hindsight, closed too soon. But he also said that many people falsely hold him solely responsible for the road's premature closing.

Burwell said that it was the approval process by the office of State Aid road construction that delayed work.

Once Harbor Drive reopens, Burwell said he believes people will be quite pleased with its new location.

Harbor Drive was supposed to reopen this month, but due to delays caused by the winter rains, McCollum said the new completion date for the road is May 13.

The improvements to Harbor Drive include widening a portion of the road to four lanes, and a new stop light at its intersection with Rice Road.

McCollum said that despite the early closing of Harbor Drive, the city is still in support of the project. He said that because of Harbor Walk, the city received money from the Mississippi Development Authority to make improvements to Harbor Drive they otherwise would not have had.

"We definitely think Harbor Walk is a great project, and we want to see it move forward," said McCollum. "[And] in the end, we did get a new road out of it - a $2 million road for free."

Other parts of the larger Main Harbor project are still proceeding.

Burwell said that fellow Harbor Walk developer Dale Shepherd is getting ready to begin work on Harbor Station, which will include a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, convenience store and office complex, along with fuel pumps for boats.