Incentives help property owners

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 13, 1999

In the last few weeks, several new downtown businesses have opened their doors, but local leaders say plenty of other properties have potential.

So area banks and city officials have a plan for downtown commercial property owners to save money on renovations.

The program has three parts: up to seven years of ad valorem tax abatement, historic income tax credits and low-interest loans from area banks.

Email newsletter signup

While historic income tax credits have always been available for income-producing property in the city’s historic districts, the tax abatement and low-interest loan program are new. They go into effect Dec. 1.

The entire program is a joint effort of local banks Britton & Koontz, Concordia Bank & Trust, Deposit Guaranty and United Mississippi; the Historic Natchez Foundation; and the City of Natchez.

&uot;We want to revitalize downtown and get downtown where it needs to be,&uot; said Sammy Porter, president of United Mississippi Bank. &uot;Slowly but surely everybody is moving back.&uot;

While other cities have similar incentive programs, Natchez’s is more extensive, said Mimi Miller, preservation director at the Historic Natchez Foundation.

For example, Natchez’s program is not just for facade improvements – money can be used to renovate the rest of the buildings also.

And the Historic Natchez Foundation also helps potential renovators fill out their applications.

&uot;We don’t have anyone else in the state who does tax credit applications for free,&uot; Porter said.

Also, Natchez’s loan program is available to anyone who qualifies, and there is not a limit to the amount of money they can borrow, Porter said.

&uot;It’s not a giveaway program,&uot; he said. &uot;Traditionally most communities have pools. People can only borrow a certain amount of money.&uot;

&uot;There’s no sunset on the abatement program,&uot; said James Johnston, community development coordinator for the City of Natchez.

Natchez is also different from many other cities because it still has a downtown to revitalize.

&uot;The sad thing is that a lot of people can’t go back to their downtowns because there is no downtown,&uot; Miller said.

But the trend is one catching on in most cities and small towns, said Tammi Mullins, director of the Natchez Downtown Development Association.

&uot;People are just going back to the downtowns,&uot; Mullins said. &uot;They’re tired of cookie-cutter malls and they want something different.

&uot;We are just on the cusp of being able to do what we want downtown.&uot;

Miller said about 25 percent of downtown property still needs to be renovated. But what has been renovated is already being used, she said.

&uot;We don’t have one restored property that’s ready to rent,&uot; Miller said.

&uot;It’s hard for me to go out and try to attract businesses to come,&uot; Mullins said. &uot;There’s just not good space to rent.&uot;

But those who have taken advantage of tax credits have been able to save quite a bit of money, Miller said. Last year, the Historic Natchez Foundation helped with applications for 22 yax credit projects.

&uot;In some cases you can get 50 percent off what you would have paid,&uot; she said. &uot;You can easily save $20,000 depending on the size of the building.&uot;