City has cash for convention center

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 1999

City officials have the money in the bank for the new convention center complex. But they are still trying to negotiate a lower price for the first phase of the project, the community center, said City Attorney Walter Brown.

Last week, the city finalized a bond sale that gives the city $12 million for the project. The sale is actually financed through the Mississippi Development Bank, so the debt does not count against the overall debt a city can have.

&uot;The proceeds (of the sale) have been deposited in the bank,&uot; Brown said.

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City officials hoped to pay around $500,000 for the renovation of the old Service Motor Co. building on Franklin Street, which will become the new community center.

But when bids were opened Dec. 14, the lowest, from Scarborough Construction Co. of Jackson, was $561,232.

Brown said the city is negotiating with the company to get construction costs down.

The other parts of the project are the convention center, to be located on a block between Main, Franklin, Wall and Canal streets, and the city auditorium, which will be renovated with amphitheater-style seating and a deeper, wider stage.

A team of people working on the design of the new convention center includes architects from Waycaster & Associates and JH&H Architects, City Planner David Preziosi, Tourism Management Director Walter Tipton and Ron and Mimi Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation.

Among the design suggestions that have been made are that the exhibit space be no taller than three stories and that it should have shallow retail space on the first floor to blend in with other downtown buildings.

Mimi Miller, director of preservation and education at the Historic Natchez Foundation, said she is pleased with the design process so far.

Meanwhile, crews with Blackland & Associates of Spanish Fort, Ala., are working on demolition of property at the convention center site, continuing work begun by Gibson Demolition.

All of the buildings should be torn down in the next few weeks, with the exception of the building occupied by the Switzer, Hopkins and Mange accounting firm, Brown said. It will remain up until after tax season. The accounting firm is also building a new office across the street.