St. Mary buys former FBC building

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NATCHEZ — The dilapidated landmark that is the former First Baptist Church building on Main Street has a new owner.

St. Mary Basilica’s pastoral and finance councils unanimously agreed on Aug. 6 to purchase the property from Dream Homes, Inc., a development company based in Merrero, La., for $147,000. The announcement was made Sunday in St. Mary’s weekly bulletin.

St. Mary withdrew the funds from its savings account, and the account will be reimbursed at monthly payments of $5,000 from operating funds, said the Rev. David O’Connor.

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Daniel Furden, a full-time New Hampshire resident who owns a house in Natchez, had entered into a contract with Dream Homes to purchase the property in April. He had also acquired a permit from the Natchez Preservation Commission to begin demolition. Furden approached O’Connor about transferring the contract to St. Mary for the amount he would spend on purchasing the property, asbestos abatement, demolition and landscaping.

Furden later notified O’Connor that he did not want to incur the costs of asbestos abatement, demolition and lot landscaping, but he still wanted to transfer the contract. St. Mary is now responsible for the above mentioned tasks.

“We weren’t seeking (the property) out, but it became available and was offered to us,” O’Connor said.

St. Mary will submit a new application for demolition and landscape plan to the Natchez Preservation Commission, said Chairman Marty Seibert. Seibert added the commission will not review St. Mary’s request until its October meeting.

Seibert, a member of St. Mary, said the purchase is a positive step forward.

“That property has been stagnant for 20 years and it was certainly not going to enhance the look and feel of that part of Main Street,” Seibert said. “The opportunity presented itself and I assume (the pastoral council) evaluated all the options.”

St. Mary has sought price quotes for asbestos abatement, which should not exceed $10,000, O’Connor said Price quotes are also being sought for demolition, leveling of the site and landscaping.

O’Connor hopes demolition will be completed before Thanksgiving, but said there are no immediate plans of what will go on the property.

St. Mary also owns the Main Street Marketplace building adjacent to the former First Baptist Church site.

Plans are moving forward to restore the Marketplace as St. Mary’s Family Life Center, O’Connor said.