Parking problems plague downtown

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 17, 2008

NATCHEZ — Even with few pedestrians trolling the shops on a rainy Wednesday, parking spots downtown were still hard to come by.

The lack of convenient parking has left shop owners looking for answers — and its left shoppers circling the block looking for a spot.

Owner of Growing Pains, a children’s clothing store, Tracy Henry said she regularly hears the complaints of shoppers who say they just can’t find a spot to park.

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“Sometimes it drives people away,” she said. “If they can’t find a spot they just go elsewhere.”

Parking difficulties in downtown Natchez are perhaps most noticeable on Franklin Street.

At almost any hour of the day drivers can be spotted creeping down the street looking for a spot closest to their destination.

Henry and other downtown business owners said one of the greatest contributing factors to the problem is shop owners parking in front of their own shops.

“It takes up spots for shoppers,” she said.

Henry said whenever possible she parks a couple of blocks away to allow shoppers better access to her shop.

However Henry said she is even guilty of parking in front of her own shop.

Owner of Intimate Home Louise Peabody said she has also noticed some increase in parking difficulties but said she has had no complaints from customers.

Peabody and one of her employees Courtney Taylor said they believe that downtown could benefit from a parking structure.

Taylor said a parking structure that kept with the style of downtown Natchez would be a good idea.

Mayor Phillip West said the aldermen have discussed a plan to deal with downtown parking woes however they are not working on their own schedule.

West said the city has entered into an agreement with the Lane Company, now known as Natchez Enterprises, that essentially dictates how the city will handle its parking problems.

Natchez Enterprises is building a new casino at the bottom of Roth Hill Road.

The agreement between the city and the casino obligates the city to provide up to 100 parking spaces at the casino’s request.

West said the city will not move forward on any type of new parking plan or structure until the Natchez Enterprises starts construction and can evaluate the amount of spaces it will need.

President of Natchez Enterprises Ted Doody said the project is currently slated to incorporate 415 parking spaces near the casino at the bottom of Roth Hill.

Doody said his company will not evaluate the need for their optional 100 spaces until construction starts sometime in the first quarter of this year.

“It will be several months before we can make a decision,” he said.

West said an ideal solution for the parking squeeze would be one that can incorporate the needs of the city and the needs of the casino in one facility.

“Right now we have to see what they need,” he said.

In the event that Doody’s company does not need the additional parking West said the aldermen will then re-access the downtown parking situation.

West said he hopes the city will have a better idea of the casino’s need within three months.