Parties debate design By Ben Hillyer The nAtchez Democrat

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; Developers Ed Worley and Larry Brown may have sold their first condo Monday morning.

&8220;I will personally commit to buy one,&8221; Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority Leland Speed said during the opening session of the condominium design workshop sponsored by the Historic Natchez Foundation.

&8220;It is that important to the future of Natchez,&8221; Speed said as he and other community leaders, design professionals and developers gathered to discuss the design of the proposed condominiums on the site of the former Natchez Pecan Shelling Co. on Broadway Street.

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Citing the retirement of baby boomers with &8220;an avalanche of inherited wealth&8221; and the trend toward buying second and third homes, Speed said it is crucial for Natchez to take advantage &8220;of this second-home phenomena.&8221;

&8220;But it is very vital that it be done right, that it not impair the beautiful situation that you have here in Natchez,&8221; Speed said.

&8220;The first one has to be born well. It has to be done right,&8221; he said.

Speed&8217;s remarks summed up

many of the competing

concerns voiced during the two-and-a-half hour opening session.

On the one hand, many of those in attendance expressed the importance of a development in the northern part of downtown. Saying the area suffers from blight, many said something new on the site will spur development.

&8220;There is nothing really on the north side of Natchez to observe,&8221; developer Ed Worley said. &8220;Those condos will be a comeback for the area.&8221;

On the other hand, many in attendance expressed the concern that the condos turned their back on the town and faced the Mississippi River.

&8220;We need to look at how it looks to those driving and walking down Broadway Street,&8221; Sara Garcia said.

&8220;We need to look at it from all aspects, not just the river.&8221;

&8220;It is a balancing act,&8221; Christopher Chadbourne, one of the design professionals hired by HNF to work with the developers

throughout the two-day session.

Chadbourne pointed to a similar example in Savannah, Ga. The construction of a modern hotel on the city&8217;s waterfront galvanized efforts to create historic guidelines for city development. Chadbourne worked with the city to develop those guidelines, saying that the competing interests between preservationist and developers was not uncommon.

&8220;This balancing act is not unique,&8221; Chadbourne said. &8220;You do the best you can.&8221;

Ron Miller, executive director of the foundation, agreed. &8220;We are looking for a practical solution, we are not looking for an ideal solution.&8221;

Other design professionals invited to the meeting included architect James Piatt, of Boston, and architect Clifton C. James, of New Orleans.

Issues discussed during the session ranged from the number of units, the height of the building and the overall size of the condos. Many ideas were discussed but no overall consensus was reached.

If there was one point of agreement during the session, it was on the importance the project will have on future development along the bluff.

&8220;We&8217;ve got to really think this project through,&8221; Marty Seibert said. &8220;This project may set the pace for future development (along the bluff.)&8221;

&8220;This sets up a precedent for the entire waterfront,&8221; Worley said.

After more than a two-and-a-half hours of discussion, the developers and design team were to meet during a closed door afternoon and evening session to discuss all of the project&8217;s issues, in hopes of coming up with a compromise that would be acceptable to all parties.

&8220;The design team has quite a job to do,&8221; Garcia said.