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Eola developer plans to revive it as hotel; Old hospital plans being negotiated
from Staff Reports - NEWS
April 26, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The owner of the old Eola said he plans to restore the Natchez landmark to resume being a hotel instead of apartments he originally set out to develop.

Rob Lubin noted many people in Natchez had expressed disappointment in his earlier intentions to convert the now-closed hotel into apartments.

“If people really prefer a hotel, I’m certainly open to that,” Lubin told Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell and the Board of Aldermen at their Tuesday meeting.

Once Natchez’ grandest hotel, the Eola closed in December 2014 when Lubin bought it from Bob Dean. Built in 1927, it’s one of the most significant structures in Natchez.

While extensive plans were made the past two years for it to become apartments, Lubin said blueprints are being reconfigured for a 75-room hotel. Lubin had previously said that’s not financially feasible, but he reconsidered after having successful redevelopment plans for an old hotel in Gulfport.

Grennell expressed appreciation for Lubin’s change of plans for Natchez’ tallest building.

“I love the hotel concept. I think that will be wonderful for downtown Natchez,” he said.

Lubin said discussions are underway with a hotel group and construction could start before the end of the year.

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The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday heard impassioned arguments for and against converting the old Natchez General Hospital into apartments, but it put off a decision so city officials can hammer out more conditions for turning over the city-owned building to developers.

The proposed housing development on Oak Street is being spearheaded by Magnolia Medical Foundation. Dr. Erica Thompson, head of the Jackson-based foundation, has presented the board with ambitious plans to spend $3.4 million to restore the dilapidated building.

However, a large contingent of neighboring property owners are opposed to the former hospital being converted into 30 apartments for retirees. They worry this will foster more crime, decrease the value of their properties and be a drain on municipal services.

After nearly two hours of hearing the plan’s pros and cons from 12 people – mostly against the apartment concept -- the six aldermen voted to delay a decision so they can continue negotiations and discussions. City officials will try to determine: the restrictions and conditions for it being conveyed to Magnolia; the building’s value and placement on the property tax roll; how the restoration is being financed; whether the renovation plans are approved by the Natchez preservation and planning commissions.

The city acquired the building in 2013 after the previous owner defaulted on paying taxes. Built in 1925, it was Natchez’ main hospital until 1960.

Some skeptics at Tuesday’s meeting questioned the financial viability of the developers’ plans and said the city would be better off tearing down the structure.

Catholic Charities was its most recent occupant. It had a shelter for battered families there until about five years ago.




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