Upcoming projects include riverfront, federal courthouse

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 11, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; While city and county officials work on ways to entice new industries to the area, they are busy working on brick-and-mortar projects they hope will also boost the local economy.

A case in point is the marketing of Roth Hill and surrounding riverfront sites, said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

City and economic development officials are marketing 5.3 acres at the foot of hill, plus the 1.7-acre convention center parking lot site and the old Natchez Pecan Factory building, to prospective developers.

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The hope is that one day the entire riverfront will be taken up with park space and housing, and with businesses that would bring jobs and tax revenue into the city.

&uot;We’ve had three serious inquiries, Š and all of them all interested in tying all three sites together,&uot; Smith said. &uot;That’s still the plan, to develop the whole thing. Even if it’s done in phases, we would still like to have a master plan.&uot;

Those developers are also interested in building hotels as part of their prospective developments &045; important, said Smith, &uot;because we’ve already made such an investment in building the convention center.&uot;

But there are also other projects local governments are working on that could bring more dollars to the area, Smith said.

One example is the renovation of the historic Memorial Hall building on Pearl Street as a federal courthouse. Local officials have said could bring some jobs to the area, although exact figures are not yet available.

Those close to the project have said the goal is now to have the facility up and running by January 2005.

The U.S. General Services Administration will provide $1.8 million, the U.S. Marshals Service will put up $1 million and the city and Adams County have put up a total of $1.8 million in bond proceeds for the project.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has also approved a $400,000 grant for the project.

With Waggonner and Ball Architects of New Orleans completing plans by May, the project could go to contract by summer, and &uot;we should have it pretty much completed this year,&uot; Smith said.

By attracting out-of-towners to tournaments and other sporting events and improving the area’s quality of life, improving recreation could also give the local economy a shot in the arm, local leaders have said.

A memorandum of understanding for the project was signed last fall by the city and Park Service. That and an environmental assessment are just two of several steps needed for the Park Service to lease about 68 acres of land just north of Natchez High to the city.

Recreational facilities local officials have proposed locating on that site &045; known as &uot;the beanfield&uot; &045; include ballfields, walking trails and picnic pavilions &045; a complex referred to as the St. Catherine Creek Recreational Complex.

Together with improvements at Liberty Park and Duncan Park, the project could cost as much as $15 million, according to City Attorney Walter Brown.

A Joint Recreation Advisory Board with representatives from the city, county and school district must have specifics on the proposal and its cost to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office by August.

That must be done so a proposed bond issue to pay for the project can be placed on the ballot by the November elections.

&uot;We’re working on the (beanfield) lease now with the Park Service, which will involve an environmental assessment,&uot; Smith said. &uot;That will tell us what we could physically put on the available property, and it’s a requirement for getting the lease signed.&uot;