City wants development plan revised

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2000

A lot can happen in eight years. For that reason, city officials want to update a 1992 study by Boston-based Chadbourne and Associates to serve as a master plan for future developments along and above the city’s riverfront.

&uot;Before (at the time of the study), going north along the river up to Roth Hill, there was nothing,&uot; Ward 5 Alderman David Massey said.

But, with the 11 acres already garnered by the on-going riverfront reclamation project; plus the stabilization of Water Street and Roth Hill, the donation of pecan factory acreage and the acquisition of the convention center site, the city has a new set of ingredients to work with. They just need an updated recipe, Massey said.

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&uot;I think we need an expert opinion on the direction of this property acquired since the last study,&uot; Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said. &uot;How to best utilize it.&uot;

Ward 3 Alderwoman and Public Properties Chairman Sue Stedman said the city has already received several inquiries from perspective developers about the property.

In last week’s meeting, the Board of Aldermen voted to begin composing requests for proposals aimed at locating a hotel directly across from the convention center site between Main and Franklin streets.

They also approved a measure to ask the Legislature to allow the city to enter into long-term lease agreements associated with properties located on the bluffs.

Ward 3 Alderwoman and Public Properties Chairman Sue Stedman said long-term (40-year) leases are important to drawing developers to the properties.

Without Legislative approval, the city can only lease property in four-year intervals, meaning an in-coming administration could nullify any leases agreements made in the previous term.

&uot;Nobody’s going to do anything with a four-year lease,&uot; Smith said.

Stedman agreed, saying developers committing large amounts of capital need to have the assurance they will still be there to see a return on their investment.

Several officials said Christopher Chadbourne was the first choice to renew the study because of his background and his focus on preservation.

&uot;I was very pleased they made the decision,&uot; Mimi Miller, Historic Natchez Foundation, said. &uot;He already knows the town. Why start all over when you have such a comprehensive plan?&uot;

The aim of the study is determining what options are available for the properties while keeping their history intact, Massey said.

&uot;Our whole view is predicated by archives and history,&uot; he said.

The properties also include the former train depot, which the city leases to Cock of the Walk restaurant.