Give city folks a big round of applause

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2001

A formal ceremony to present the first-place livability award to Natchez will take place at the next aldermen meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Many creative governmental hours are represented in the award, which comes as a result of one innovative program begun in 1993.

The strange program name, &uot;LUMPS,&uot; comes from a combination of ordinary terms: Large Unused Municipal Properties.

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A quick survey of the empty, mostly dilapidated buildings around town brought brilliant response from city leaders, who began to look for ways to renovate the salvageable structures and to put them to good use for the community.

The idea was smart, and the results stunning. Best of all, the many newly refurbished, highly visible buildings are a source of pride not only because they provide useful space but also because they remain integral to the city’s history and architectural landscape.

Admittedly, most of the buildings are not ones we would build today. They are monuments to a time when styles, budgets and needs were different.

One, like its sister location now used as the senior citizens center, was built through the philanthropy of one Natchez family, the Carpenters.

Total investment, according to figures from the city planner’s office, has been $5.4 million. Of that, the city has contributed $2.2, much of that being in what is called in-kind contributions – work done by city employees as part of their daily assignments.

To break it down in percentages, grant sources provided 58 percent of the money. The city provided 41 percent – including that in-kind work. And 1 percent came from other sources.

So what were some of these eyesores transformed into handsome, useful buildings? They were schools, an abandoned office building a hospital, an old grocery store and a former post office, for example.

Uses of the buildings run an interesting gamut, from the performing arts center to the home for single parents struggling to make their way in life.

Here, then, are only three of the projects that caught the attention of an independent panel of judges who made possible the award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Oak Towers, the domestic violence shelter at the intersection of Pearl and Oak streets, is a renovated 1925 hospital building many remember as the Natchez General Hospital.

Brumfield School Apartments, a former 1927 school building on St. Catherine Street, now is alive with families as an apartment complex with a child-care center for low- and moderate-income single-parent families.

Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center grows as a place for the Natchez Opera Festival to hold its rehearsals and performances but continues to house a few small businesses, as well. The school on Homochitto Street was built as Natchez High School in the 1920s .

Come to the Tuesday meeting to hear more about the other projects. A big turnout for the occasion is in order.

City leaders and others on the projects have a right to beam with pride.

Joan Gandy is Special Projects Director. Contact her by phone at 601-445-3549 or by

e-mail at joan.gandy