Parking panel may tackle convention center problems

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2000

After passing on a Downtown Parking Authority, the Natchez Board of Aldermen is looking to the Natchez Downtown Development Association to continue to address downtown parking needs, especially those that will arise with a new convention center.

Over the last few months, the NDDA’s parking committee has attempted to alleviate long-standing parking problems, including working with Natchez Police Department to lift two-hour parking limits on some downtown parking places.

Since beginning the experiment, NDDA Director Tammi Mullins said she has seen a considerable drop in the amount of complaints from downtown business owners and patrons about lack of parking.

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&uot;The solution (Natchez Police) Chief (Willie) Huff and I came up with has helped,&uot; Mullins said.

Huff said he will ask the board at its next meeting to amend city ordinances and make permanent the switch to &uot;open&uot; spaces.

While the present situation appears to be under control, both Mullins and Huff said new and future downtown developments present parking concerns to be reckoned with.

Plans for the new convention center are based on the assumption that most conventioneers will use shuttles to commute between the center and hotels, and parking space will not be greatly affected, Mullins said.

But, parking for the community center could present problems as more groups begin to utilize it and overflow parking is eliminated by the convention center.

&uot;That’s the next thing we’re going to have to deal with as far as parking,&uot; Mullins said.

Adding to the parking picture is a recent board decision to update a 1992 study by Boston-based Chadbourne & Associates, which will focus on property adjacent to the convention center site and along the riverfront.

Mullins said she plans to write a letter to the firm informing them of downtown concerns and issues, including parking.

&uot;We just want to give whatever input we can,&uot; she said.

Huff said the parking authority and police department’s role in the new study cannot be described as a &uot;liaison,&uot; but &uot;it would be beneficial.&uot;

Other than amending the two-hour parking ordinances, Mullins and Huff said they have no immediate plans for parking issues, but Huff said he intends to keep a close eye on community center parking.

Last month, Ward 4 Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West suggested the board look into reactivating the defunct Downtown Parking Authority. After tabling the idea for two meetings, the board voted Tuesday to leave it inactive.

Mullins, who gave a report at the meeting, said she is pleased with the board’s decision. &uot;I just said I hated to double up on manpower and hours to try to accomplish the same thing,&uot; Mullins said.

West agreed with Mullins that a &uot;duplication&uot; of services would be unnecessary.