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Hotel management company seeks new city lease for Main Street building

NATCHEZ — The management company for the Natchez Convention Center asked city officials Tuesday if they would lease a city property to the company for free before allowing the company to sub-lease the same property for $500 a month.

Convention Center Manager Walter Tipton approached the Natchez Board of Aldermen about the lease on 212 Main Street, which is located across the street from the convention center. The five-year lease, which expired in October, was granted to the convention center’s management company — New Orleans Hotel Consultants — in 2007, when construction began on the Natchez Grand Hotel.

Since being granted the lease, the management company has put between $35,000 and $50,000 into improvements to the property in addition to paying $750 a month to rent it, Tipton said.

“(New Orleans Hotel Consultants President) Warren Reuther would really like to keep control of this building, because we have long-range plans of having other ventures in Natchez, and we would like to have additional office space,” Tipton said.

Businessmen who formerly had a business on the site of what is now the Grand Hotel have approached the convention center management, Tipton said.

“They would like to rent this office space across from the convention center for $500 a month beginning in February, with incremental increases if they are successful,” he said. “They want to put in an additional pastry and gift shop that would complement what we are doing at the convention center.”

If the city extends the lease to New Orleans Hotel Consultants, Tipton said the company is asking for a zero lease. The funds generated by the sublease would be channeled toward improvements at the convention center and the Natchez Community Center, he said.

The sublease would be for a three-year agreement with the ability to give a 60-day notice of vacating, Tipton said.

The office was previously rented to the Magnolia Bluffs Casino for four months at $750 a month, he said.

The aldermen asked for time to consider the proposal and investigate its legality, but expressed doubts about it.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said if the lease on the building is up now, the city can lease the building on its own.

“I think we are setting a bad precedent to lease anything for zero and then have the sublease dedicated,” Brown said. “It takes the administration and the oversight away from the city.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis suggested the board have a work session to discuss what needs to be done at the convention and community centers, though no official plans were made.