Revitalized downtown peps up whole area

Published 12:16 am Sunday, February 17, 2008

NATCHEZ — It’s undeniable. Downtown Natchez is peppered with construction, whether new projects or renovations.

What does this mean for the city?

Nothing but good, according to officials from the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority, Natchez Downtown Development, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and Historic Natchez Foundation.

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For the economy, EDA Board Chairman Woody Allen said, it means an increase in money.

“It puts more dollars into circulation, into the community,” Allen said.

The money comes from permanent jobs with payroll that are created by the businesses and also even with the workers coming in to work on the project.

“They’re bringing those people in and they’re having to live, eat and buy gas,” Allen said. “A lot of those dollars are being circulated back.

“It gives both city and county government more to work with to provide and improve the infrastructure in the community,” he said.

Allen said with the new hotels coming in, it will also impact tourism in Natchez.

“It gives (the city) another tool to work with and help promote Natchez,” Allen said.

Also, new businesses coming in could attract even more businesses, Allen said.

“I think what this will provide is a climate that makes it more attractive for people to look at and feel more comfortable in investing in Natchez and the community,” he said.

With the renovations happening all over town, he said it might have the effect of encouraging more renovations, too.

“People are spending their own money to improve their property and hopefully that becomes contagious and feeds all around town,” Allen said.

Mimi Miller, program director of Historic Natchez Foundation, said it’s already happening.

“There’s a lot of preservation activity that’s going on and that’s exciting,” Miller said. “I think the construction now is just evidence of the continued investment downtown.”

Miller said Natchez is unique to the state in that it has one of the rare active historic downtowns.

“There are only a handful of cities in Mississippi that have downtowns that are as economically healthy and well preserved as ours,” she said.

Miller said she believed more tourism marketing is inevitable because of the growth.

“We’re going to have more people marketing Natchez than we’ve ever had,” Miller said. “These hotels are going to want to fill those rooms and I think that’s one of the best aspects.”

Not only will it benefit tourism, but also Pilgrimage.

Jim Coy, manager of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said the multitude of hotels will be good.

“In terms of recent new construction, anything that provides more rooms, easier access for people to come here and stay several days makes it a more appealing place to come and stay for several days,” he said.

Natchez Downtown Development is pleased with the renovations downtown and also the new convention center hotel.

Carrie Lambert, director of the association, said they look forward to promoting downtown and all its historic beauty during Spring Pilgrimage and is not discouraged by the construction.

She said she fully supports the renovation.

“There has been so much renovation downtown to restore so many of the building to the previous architectural beauty that its unbelievable,” she said.

She said she looks forward to even more restoration of downtown in the future.

“The day is just dawning for the downtown,” Lambert said.

The only negative impact it could have, Allen said, would be parking problems downtown.

“That’s a nice problem to have when you’ve got a lot of activity that would create a parking problem,” Allen said.