Report gauges city

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2008

NATCHEZ — Natchez has good things and bad things, but the overall report given recently to the city by the Mississippi Community action team was positive.

In fact, Natchez Downtown Development Association Director Carrie Lambert said the report was overwhelmingly so.

A group of strangers to Natchez visited the city several months ago through a program called First Impressions.

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From that, Natchez’s assets and pitfalls were assessed and compiled into a report, which was presented to the city on Tuesday.

Lambert discovered the free First Impressions program through the Mississippi Development Authority.

“One of their closing remarks is that Natchez is unique and one of a kind,” Lambert said. “Yes we are, we know we are, but it’s really nice to have someone come in and say that.

“Everyone was so impressed with Natchez. They loved it.”

Some of the major highlights pointed out were the river, though the group said it’s underutilized, the downtown area, restaurants, businesses, friendly residents, the history, the antebellum homes, Duncan Park, churches and tourism.

Marty Seibert, Historic Preservation Commission chair, attended the meeting and said she was happy with the results.

“I was very pleased with the comments because I felt like (they) were a testimony to the values of the ordinances we have in place in the city,” she said. “It reinforced the purpose of our ordinances.”

Mayor Jake Middleton was there as well, and said the comments were positive and helpful.

Lambert said there were suggestions as to what undesirable areas of the city need to be attacked. That was one of the major purposes of the assessment, she said.

“A lot of what they said we already knew,” she said.

Downtown signage was listed as an area for improvement, along with dilapidated housing, schools, lack of industry and the gateways to Natchez.

Seibert said one entryway mentioned during the meeting was the entrance coming from Louisiana off the bridge.

“We have no greenery,” she said.

Lambert said planting some greenery by the welcome sign would be a good start to improving that area.

Middleton said dressing up the gateway coming from U.S. 61 North was also an idea.

“They suggested maybe trying to get small businesses owners and people like that to clean up, try to have a better appearance,” he said.

Also, having the different groups and organizations of Natchez — Historic Natchez Foundation, chamber of commerce, visitors center and others — work more collectively together was suggested.

Lambert said she is very aware of that need and agrees that the cooperation between organizations needs to be addressed.

Despite these suggestions on how to sharpen the image and structure of Natchez, Lambert said she doesn’t feel kicked down by them.

“I believe it’s much easier to swallow medicine when you add that spoonful of sugar,” she said. “This presentation felt like there was a whole cup of sugar added to that teaspoon of medicine and I’d like to go forward and I hope everyone goes forward with a sweet attitude toward change.”

With this information, improvements can start taking place slowly, Lambert said. She said the city can’t be overturned overnight, though.

“That would be throwing the baby out with the bath water when you do that,” she said. “You have to go one step at a time.”