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Natchez aldermen move forward on long-delayed railroad depot restoration
from Staff Reports - NEWS
February 14, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Natchez aldermen decided Tuesday to begin the process for soliciting proposals on what to do with the city’s old railroad depot that was renovated in 2016 but has sat dormant for more than a year as an unused shell while city leaders put plans on hold.

The board Tuesday asked city attorney Bob Latham to draw up a public request for proposals for aldermen to review at another meeting before publishing the so-called RFP.

After spending nearly $1 million in state and city funds to renovate the 108-year-old building’s exterior, the Board of Aldermen in 2016 cancelled hotelier Warren Reuther’s controversial plans to lease the building, restore the interior and use it as a tourist center. The board was responding to complaints that it didn’t seek other bidders interested in utilizing the city-owned structure on Broadway Street overlooking the Mississippi River.

The development was further stalled as city officials awaited recommendations from FOR Natchez, a private group that’s been studying how to revitalize downtown Natchez. Among the suggestions offered by FOR Natchez consultants last summer were to convert the former train station into public restrooms, a coffee shop or visitors center. A raised deck by the depot overlooking the Mississippi River is another suggestion.

Reuther, who also owns the nearby Natchez Grand Hotel, had a deal with the board in 2015 to lease the old depot and finish the interior with at least $300,000 in private money. Public funds had dried up for the building’s complete renovation. Reuther had begun restoring the interior before the board nullified the lease in 2016.

Reuther’s company -- New Orleans Hotel Consultants – currently has a city contract to manage the Natchez Convention Center. In addition to the Grand Hotel, it also owns Monmouth, the antebellum mansion and estate that accommodates overnight guests. He also has a Natchez sight-seeing bus company. Reuther recently purchased the old Regions bank building on Pearl and Franklin streets with plans to convert it into a hotel. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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