Downtown development puts Natchez on the map

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2008

Natchez — Natchez Downtown Development Association Director Carrie Lambert is putting Natchez on the map — quite literally.

She discovered a program with Mississippi Development Authority and Mississippi State University that does asset mapping.

MSU calls it “First Impressions.”

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“It’s the first impressions of visitors as they arrive in our community,” she said.

In order to get that first impression, asset mapping teams consist of strangers to the city.

“It’s to evaluate an area — look at it to see what assets that city, town, community has to offer not only visitors but residents and future residents or businesses or corporations,” Lambert said.

A few months ago, Lambert took a team of fresh eyes and gave them a tour of the city and the assets Natchez has.

“I wanted them to see all the things I fell in love with when I came to Natchez,” she said.

After the team scoured the city and county, it discovered that the area has 187 assets which consists of restaurants, schools, businesses, churches, playgrounds and more.

“The river is an asset,” Lambert said.

For each asset, a worksheet had to be filled out.

This worksheet required every structure to be named, numbered and described.

A global positioning device was used to get the asset’s latitude and longitude, and a digital picture was taken.

With that detailed information, each asset will be put on a map online, so interested visitors and locals can take a virtual tour of the city.

“This is putting us out there,” Lambert said.

By also reviewing every asset that the area has, a presentation will be given to community members and leaders to show how to utilize and improve those assets, but to also highlight what the area is lacking.

“They do discuss drawbacks,” Lambert said.

Retail analysis reports will be discussed as well during the presentation, which can guide community leaders how to develop the area economically, and perhaps what kind of retail businesses would fit in the area.

“A lot of businesses now are finding a more popular shopping venue is open air, which is what the downtown is,” Lambert said.

Knowing that kind of information, Lambert said city and county officials could actively pursue retailers, instead of waiting for just anything to fall into their laps.

Lambert said all of this can be facilitated through the asset mapping.

“We want people that are bigger than you and I to help us get what we want,” she said. “We want change and we want to be part of the change. It’s going to happen.”

The asset mapping’s findings will be presented in a town hall meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 14 at the city council chambers.