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Natchez board approves downtown master plan
from Staff Reports - NEWS
May 23, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Much work and time remains in implementing the downtown Natchez revitalization plan adopted Tuesday by the Board of Aldermen.

However, a quick spark for this can be converting the old Broadway Street railroad depot into a dining and drinking establishment. That’s part of the comprehensive downtown master plan drafted by private consultants and presented to the board by city Planning Director Rico Gianni.

The board is planning to begin next month seeking proposals from private developers on what to do with the city-owned former train station on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, said Mayor Darryl Grennell.

“That is a key to the redevelopment of downtown,” the mayor said of completely refurbishing the 108-year-old depot.

Another major vision in the city’s newly adopted development plan has the U.S. Post Office on Canal Street relocated to Martin Luther King Street on the block between Main and Franklin streets. The old mail facility is considered an impediment to the bluff area’s regeneration. One concept has it being torn down and replaced by “Ellicott’s Hill Plaza and Farmers Market” in front of the historic house built there in 1798. Relocating the post office to MLK Street could help spawn economic growth for that section of town.

The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday voted to ask the U.S. Postal Service to consider moving the Natchez post office – a process that would likely take several years.

Aldermen approved the downtown Natchez master plan envisioned by a Nashville consulting group that will take untold amounts of money in the long term spent by aggressive business entrepreneurs, innovative city government leaders and careful historic preservationists.

However, the consultants’ top priority is the quick establishment of a downtown group with a full-time executive director tasked with spearheading the implementation of comprehensive strategies to revitalize the city's core area.

Other suggested "low hanging fruits" within reach to make downtown more alive include loosening up city land-use regulations, making one-way streets two-way and resurrecting the Broadway Street railroad depot whose restoration was put on hold two years ago.

The city restored the railroad depot’s exterior in 2016 but halted finishing the interior amid controversial plans by hotelier Warren Reuther to lease the building. The Board of Aldermen canceled the lease with Reuther in 2016 after he had already begun redoing the building’s interior.

After more than a year of no progress toward finishing the depot project, the board voted in February to publicly seek proposals from developers on what they could do to it. However, that was stalled pending the formal adoption of the city’s master plan Tuesday

Among the suggestions offered by the consultants is to convert the former train station into public restrooms, a dining-drinking establishment or a visitors center. A raised terraced area by the depot overlooking the Mississippi River is another idea offered by the consultants hired by FOR Natchez, the private group spearheading the movement to revitalize downtown Natchez. The depot formerly housed a restaurant and a tourist souvenir shop before its restoration.

A copy of the new downtown plan can be downloaded from FOR Natchez’ website: | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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