It’s beginning to look a lot like … home

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

During the week, David Preziosi and Gretchen Kuechler can be found in the planning office at Natchez city hall, sorting through building permit applications, construction site plans and guiding city residents through the ins and outs of improving houses and property.

But once the weekend arrives, the two city planners turn to their own projects: Kuechler to a 19th-century wood frame house on South Commerce Street and Preziosi to a commercial building-turned-loft apartment in the heart of downtown.

Though both are transplants to Natchez from Texas, the two young professionals have chosen to make Natchez their home. And with each passing day — and trip to the hardware store — the ties grow stronger.

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Kuechler said it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with Natchez when she first visited in 1998.

Because she knew Preziosi from graduate school at Texas A&M University, she applied for and was soon accepted to the position of assistant city planner.

Looking back now, Kuechler says without hesitation it is the people of Natchez that have kept her here.

“Once you move to this town, you immediately become a part of it,” she said.

“I don’t know if it’s right to say the town grabs you, but everyone I’ve met has been so nice.”

And it was the people who first planted in Kuechler the desire to own her own piece of Natchez.

Because her career puts her in everyday contact with home and property owners, Kuechler decided she could better serve residents by becoming a homeowner herself.

After searching for months, Kuechler last year purchased a historic house on South Commerce Street.

“It’s good to know where they’re coming from,” she said.

“When someone looks at me and says, ‘would you like this next to your house, on your street?’ I can honestly think about it in terms of my own house or my own neighborhood.”

Kuechler admits she took a chance on the house, which had deteriorated from time and inattention.

The first time her parents saw her new investment, they immediately asked if it was too late to give it back, she said.

“They liked my neighbors a lot more than my house the first six months,” she said, laughing.

But just as Kuechler, her parents have also come to love the house. In fact, it was her parents who convinced her not to sell when high gas prices had Kuechler discouraged to the point of putting the house on the market.

A supportive family is also central to Preziosi’s building on Franklin Street. He and his parents actually formed a corporation and bought the historic commercial building and now rent the ground floor to a gift shop while Preziosi converts the second floor into living space he tailor-designed to fit his own style and interests.

“It’s interesting because I love historic buildings, but I like modern interiors,” he said.

With that in mind, Preziosi set out to blend the two, using elements from the original structure combined with an modern, minimalist interior.

“The enjoyment is get to design it the way I wanted to do it, and I get to live in it,” he said.

For Preziosi, the project is a perfect representation of his love for historic architecture. While he holds an appreciation for all types of architecture, it is the personality behind a historic structure that appeals to Preziosi.

“For me, it was the life of the building, who was here, what it was used for,” he said.

“It’s kind of like when you talk to your grandparents, and they talk about what their life was like,” he said.

Comparatively, historic structures like his have their own unique story to tell.

Preziosi said he was immediately impressed by Natchez when he first visited several years ago, specifically, the abundance of wonderful architecture and the appreciation the people seemed to hold for their history.

“The people in this town love their history and want to show it off to the rest of the world,” Preziosi said.

The career opportunity in Natchez offered Preziosi a chance to exercise his academic training in planning and architecture as well as a keen interest in historic preservation by working closely with the Historic Natchez Association and the Historic Preservation Commission.

“Half the battle of historic preservation is educating people about why it’s important, but I don’t have to do that here,” he said.

And though it was the career that initially lured Preziosi to Natchez, like Kuechler, it is the people that have kept him here.

Now Preziosi said he gets a certain enjoymentjust from waving hello to fellow Natchezians while walking down the street or shopping for groceries.

“That small town life is very appealing,” he said.

“It’s a different kind of lifestyle.”