Hotel developer : Ground breaking should be in late 2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Developers will break ground for the convention center hotel &8220;sometime in the third quarter,&8221; Thomas Bauer told Natchez Rotary Club members Wednesday.

&8220;Our goal is to be in the ground in the third quarter and then have a year of construction,&8221; said Bauer, whose New Orleans company in January won the bid to build the hotel in the block across from the Natchez Convention Center.

He is talking with Minneapolis-based Carlson Co. about a Country Inn & Suites hotel on the site, Bauer said.

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Carlson owns other hotel franchises, a large travel agency and cruise ships. Bauer hopes to take advantage of Carlson&8217;s extensive mailing lists to market the Natchez site.

&8220;Initially, we plan 120 rooms with 140 to 150 parking places,&8221; he said. Restaurant facilities will be limited in order not to conflict with restaurants already open in downtown Natchez.

Bauer became interested in the Natchez project while in the city in the aftermath of Katrina. &8220;In a word, I view Natchez as ripe,&8221; he said.

Natchez is not rising to its potential, he said. He attended the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in October. &8220;I live 150 miles from here, and I had never heard of the balloon race. I&8217;m sure I&8217;m not the only one,&8221; he said.

He saw tourism promotion carried on by splintered groups rather than by one cohesive body. &8220;I wondered if you couldn&8217;t put it all together.&8221;

With that in mind, he has contacted a consultant to visit Natchez about the kinds of new attractions that might boost tourism.

&8220;We thought it would be helpful if we brought in a cultural tourism consultant to meet with any concerned people in the community who would want more 12-month tourism attractions,&8221; Bauer said.

Walter Tipton, Natchez director of tourism, said the consultant will come from the Lord company in Canada.

&8220;They worked on the D-Day Museum in New Orleans and also have provided consulting services for the exhibit that eventually will be at the World Trade Center,&8221; Tipton said.

&8220;They do international consulting in all aspects of developing attractions.&8221;

Bauer said he is in Natchez because of the opportunity. He also likes the physical beauty, the people and the hospitality he has enjoyed in the city.

&8220;I&8217;m happy with the site we have and very glad to invest in that location.&8221;