City preps for next step on center

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 1999

Now that architects have been chosen, the next step for the city’s proposed convention center will be coming up with a design for the downtown building.

Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said architects and city officials will have to decide the programming of the center.

&uot;They’ll have to determine just what is this facility going to do,&uot; Brown said.

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That means figuring out how much space is needed for everything from meeting rooms to restrooms, and determining how the building will sit on the location between Franklin and Main and Canal and Broadway streets.

JH&H architects of Jackson will assist local firm Waycaster and Associates in designing the center, expected to cost around $9 million.

The public will have some input in the direction of the center. A public forum will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, at the ballroom of the Radisson Natchez Eola Hotel.

At that meeting, the architects will be introduced and will have the chance to explain the design process to the public.

Members of the convention center planning committee, which earlier this year took a tour of convention centers around the South, will also attend the meeting.

After the meeting, people will be able to the old Service Motor Company building on Franklin Street, which will soon be renovated into a community center.

The Natchez Downtown Development Association will host

&uot;It’s an opportunity to see what the city’s plans are,&uot; said Connie Taunton, visitors services coordinator for the city.

The convention center is about two weeks off a timeline the city set for the project, but Brown said he hopes demolition of the downtown site can begin as soon as possible.

According to the timeline, construction is supposed to begin in spring 2000, and the center could open by spring 2001.

In the meantime, however, the mayor said he wants Waycaster and Associates to begin work immediately on plans for the community center. That project is expected to cost about $500,000, and could be open in time for Mardi Gras balls next year.

In all, the city can borrow up to $12 million in bonds to pay for the convention center, community center and renovations to the Natchez City Auditorium.