City hires center architects

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 10, 1999

After years of talk and months of planning, the Natchez Board of Aldermen took a big step toward a downtown convention center Tuesday, hiring architects for the project.

JH&H of Jackson will join Waycaster and Associates of Natchez in designing the center, which will be located downtown.

&uot;This is a big day in the history of the City of Natchez,&uot; Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said.

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JH&H was the architect for the Vicksburg Convention Center, and is also working on a multipurpose center in Ridgeland.

The firm was chosen after an interview process that involved a city ad hoc committee, including the mayor, city attorney Walter Brown, city planner David Preziosi, Mimi Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation, several aldermen and architect Johnny Waycaster.

Waycaster said the committee reached consensus on JH&H and felt it found &uot;the expertise and experience we’ve been looking for.&uot;

Carl Franco, president of JH&H, said the firm is excited about working in Natchez.

&uot;We understand the historical significance in Natchez, and we are very interested in the downtown site,&uot; Franco said. &uot;I’m here to pledge our firm’s commitment to produce a facility that will be second to none in the state.&uot;

In addition to the architectural contract for the convention center, the board of aldermen approved contracts for a community center and for renovations to the city auditorium.

Waycaster and Associates will be the architect for those two projects.

&uot;It’s an exciting day,&uot; Brown said. &uot;This is a real challenge, and I commend the board for stepping up and doing it. It ain’t as big as the bluffs or as deep as the hole where we put the visitors center.&uot;

But this is the largest project the city has undertaken which will be paid for entirely by the city. Two weeks ago, the board of aldermen authorized up to $12 million in bonds to be used for the entire project.

About $9 million will pay for the convention center, $500,000 for the community center and $1.5 million for the auditorium.

While the city has not taken the final step on the bond issue, it will likely borrow the money from the Mississippi Development Bank, which itself sells the bonds. That way the debt does not count against the city’s bond debt limit, which is about $12 or $13 million.

The convention center will be located on a city block on the river, bordered by Canal and Broadway and Main and Franklin streets.

The community center will be in the old Service Motor Company building on Franklin Street.