Building gets slow makeover

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The paint is chipping off the outside. Insulation is flaking off the ceilings. But the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center has new windows.

Bit by bit, the building is being worked on.

The mayor and board of aldermen discussed improvements that might be made a few months ago, but no drastic improvements have been made.

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&8220;We&8217;ve had general discussion on what some of the needs are,&8221; Mayor Phillip West said. &8220;We haven&8217;t moved forward with any specifics. We&8217;re aware of the needs in terms of upgrading, the lack of space in terms of what&8217;s being requested of us.&8221;

West said he and the aldermen had looked at the 13 acres the city owns around the building on Homochitto Street and its potential use for things like a YMCA. He said they were looking at building another facility or selling the open land.

&8220;We&8217;re not going to let it remain idle if we can come up with something constructive for the area.&8221;

Some of those in the building would like to see some repairs, they said.

&8220;The outside hasn&8217;t been painted in years,&8221; said David Blackburn, director of the Natchez Festival of Music. &8220;And there&8217;s several rooms that at one time were painted, but when the roof wasn&8217;t finished, they got water damage. Now we have to go back and start over. We&8217;ve just had to close those off.&8221;

The festival also needs a place they can build sets, Blackburn said. They used to use the gymnasium next to the building, but since the Boys and Girls Club now use it, they need a new shop.

The city has done some repairs to broken windows recently, said Sarah Blackburn, production manager for the festival.

&8220;Just recently they replaced 198 panes of glass with a kind of substance that will not break,&8221; she said. &8220;That was a really positive thing.&8221;

The city also helps with electrical work when it is needed, she said.

Even with new windows and electrical repairs, &8220;It&8217;s an old building, and it needs a lot of work,&8221; she said.

Mignon Reid, owner and director of the Natchez Ballet Academy, said she would like to see the building generally cleaned up.

&8220;The stuff on the ceiling constantly falls down,&8221; Reid said. &8220;It crumbles and falls off into the hallway. When the parents bring their children in, that&8217;s the area they are in.&8221;

Reid said she couldn&8217;t do anything with the hallway if she wanted to, because it&8217;s not her space.

&8220;Basically, it just needs to be refurbished.&8221;