Condo option extended

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Aldermen approved Tuesday what should be a final two-week extension on an option agreement between the City of Natchez and bluff condominium developers.

With the geotechnical and environmental surveys in receipt, developers Edward Worley and Larry L. Brown Jr. asked for the two weeks for time to study the reports.

&8220;We have the reports back and we&8217;ll meet in the next few days to go over everything,&8221; Brown said. &8220;There were no surprises and no red flags.&8221;

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The partners have an option with the city to purchase the property where the former Natchez Pecan Shelling Co. was located on Broadway Street.

The building, situated on the north end of the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, will be razed to make way for the condominiums.

The option calls for the sale of the property for $500,000. The developers will spend about $20 million to develop a building of about 75 luxury condominiums.

Once the sale of the property is complete, the biggest hurdle for developers will be the reworking of the condo design, Brown said.

&8220;The big holdup will be the architects &8212; getting all the final information and adjusting their drawings. It probably will be about five months before we get the architectural work done,&8221; he said.

The developers hope to begin construction sometime in the fourth quarter of 2006. &8220;The contractor has estimated 14 months for construction,&8221; he said.

City Engineer David Gardner said he is not surprised that the two surveys look good. The reports are important not only to the developers but also to the city officials and residents.

&8220;First, you want to be sure it&8217;s a clean environmental site. Then you want to be sure the property will support the condominiums,&8221; Gardner said. &8220;The developer wants to be sure he has a suitable site.&8221;

The city will put a portion of the money received for the property into infrastructure work there.

&8220;It&8217;s state law. If you sell public property for less than it is appraised, for economic development, some of that money has to be invested back into the property,&8221; Gardner said.

&8220;That&8217;s what we&8217;ll do. We&8217;ll build sidewalks and put up lighting and lay conduits for underground utilities.&8221;

Gardner expects to see the entire area affected by the new construction. &8220;It&8217;s contagious. I&8217;ve seen it happen on so many occasions,&8221; he said. &8220;People get excited and put money into their property. I anticipate we&8217;ll see the same thing on Broadway Street.&8221;

In the long term, the development will be good for city coffers, Gardner said.

&8220;It brings 70 new families to town to eat in restaurants, buy groceries and gasoline and increase the property taxes and the sales taxes,&8221; he said.

The developers entered into the agreement with the city in late June 2005.