Plans continues for convention center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 18, 1999

While work continues on the demolition of buildings at the site of the downtown convention center, work also continues on the plans for what will replace those buildings.

&uot;We are in the process of completing programming,&uot; said architect Johnny Waycaster of Waycaster & Associates. Waycaster is working with JH&H Architects of Jackson on the project.

&uot;Programming&uot; includes such details as figuring out where the front door will be and how much space will be available for exhibits.

Email newsletter signup

For example, &uot;where do you put the lobby when you have so many entrances?&uot; said City Planner David Preziosi.

Because the block-size building doesn’t exactly have a &uot;front&uot; or a &uot;back,&uot; planners have to figure out where to put the doors. Tentatively, Preziosi said, pedestrian entrances will be on Main and Franklin streets, with a service entrance on Wall Street and bus entrance on Canal Street.

And planners are also still considering using shallow retail space along the perimeter of the property, Preziosi said.

Mimi Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation suggested the idea of retail space to offset the mass of the building and allow it to fit in with the historic downtown architecture. The &uot;box&uot; — the large, windowless exhibit space — will likely be in the middle of the property, Preziosi said.

In the meantime, both the city public works department and Charles Gibson Demolition are tearing down part of the downtown property already on the site of the convention center, including the old Barnett Motor Co. building.

Preziosi said workers will try to save the frontispiece of the 1950s Greyhound bus station. Last week the Natchez Preservation Commission voted to allow the bus station to come down. &uot;It neither contributes nor detracts from the historic district,&uot; Preziosi said. &uot;There’s nothing outstanding or glaringly bad about it.&uot;

While some of the programming issues for the convention center are being worked out, architects are &uot;keeping an open mind&uot; about the design, Waycaster said.

The architect and Natchez native said he is glad to be a part of the project, which is being financed by a $12 million bond issue and also includes the renovation of the city auditorium and the renovation of the Service Motor Company building as a community center. &uot;It’s possibly the most significant building that will be constructed downtown in my lifetime,&uot; Waycaster said. &uot;We’re very fortunate and excited to be a part of it.&uot;