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Possibilities officials hoping to close sales following tour

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Realtor Melanie Miller Downer, left, shows old photographs to Carol Ann Riley during the Possibilities Tour Saturday afternoon in Natchez. Fifteen vacant buildings in downtown Natchez were opened to the public with a goal to turn the vacant buildings into viable businesses or apartments.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Realtor Melanie Miller Downer, left, shows old photographs to Carol Ann Riley during the Possibilities Tour Saturday afternoon in Natchez. Fifteen vacant buildings in downtown Natchez were opened to the public with a goal to turn the vacant buildings into viable businesses or apartments.

NATCHEZ — Officials are hoping the hundreds of curious onlookers and business developers who toured 15 downtown Natchez buildings this weekend turn the vacant possibilities into realities.

Organizers said more than 300 people attended The Possibilities Tour, “Turning Deserted Spaces into Dynamic Places,” which rolled out the red carpet Saturday, highlighting 14 locations on Franklin and Main streets, along with the Lombardo building on Canal Street.

A new sale or lease has yet to be completed, but many are confident positive results are near.

Sue Stedman, vice president of Crye-Leike Stedman Realtors, said the tour was worth the time and effort, and she hopes “we can do it again.”

“We had people who were just coming in because they were curious and wanted to see the buildings, but we also had three or four people come through that are actually considering a purchase,” Stedman said. “I think they have serious interest.”

Ruth Nichols, Alcorn State’s vice president for educational and community partnership, said visitors checked in from as far away as Nashville, along with Meridian, Vicksburg, Port Gibson, Madison, New Orleans, St. Francisville, La. and Alexandria, La.

“The sidewalks were just full of people,” Nichols said. “The realtors were impressed with the volume of people that came in their buildings. We had sign-in sheets there, as well, so they have follow-up possibilities.”

Alcorn State, Mississippi Main Street Association and the Natchez Downtown Development Association sponsored Saturday’s tour.

“We had a lot of help,” Nichols said. “Multiple businesses and shops donated great gifts we could giveaway.”

Natchez Inc. Project Manager Chris Hinton said many representatives from other communities expressed interest in replicating similar events in their towns.

“We received a grant from (the Mississippi Development Authority) that helped put it on this year,” Hinton said. “We would love the opportunity to do it again, but it involves a financial commitment.”

Hinton credited realtors for cleaning the buildings of debris and creating a more welcoming downtown.

“The people really had the opportunity to see what Natchez had to offer,” he said. “So many people love the architecture of downtown Natchez, and that is a draw right there.

“The value of the history is a major pull here.”