City to demolish collapsed building in downtown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 3, 2010

NATCHEZ — The city-ordered demolition of a building on Martin Luther King Jr. Street will relieve residents and tourists from viewing the partially collapsed eyesore at the entrance to downtown.

The structure caved in April 13, and although no one was injured, many were concerned with the danger posed by the dilapidated brick walls that hover over the busy corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Franklin streets.

Last week, the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to demolish the remaining structure. It should be gone by next week, Natchez Building Inspector Paul Dawes said.

Dawes said the building has been in stable condition since a city crew cleaned it up the day it fell, but he is in the process of scheduling a date to completely clear the lot.

“Citizens are safe (from imminent danger of the building collapsing again), but it’s just something that needs to be disposed of and put away,” Dawes said.

Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields proposed complete demolishment of the building after the owner of the property failed to take care of the damaged structure in a timely manner.

Property owner Cedric Dewayne Thompson lives in St. Paul, Minn. Dawes said he spoke to Thompson three times, but Thompson has not made any moves to address the problem.

Fields said many people have voiced their concerns to him about the safety and the sight of the half-fallen structure.

“We don’t want our guests to come and have to look at that; nor do the residents want to,” he said.

Fields said the community was lucky that no one was passing by early in the morning when the vacant building fell the first time, and he does not want to take the chance that it might fall again. In addition, it poses an eyesore in the center of the city for residents and tourists alike.

According to Historic Natchez Foundation Director Mimi Miller, the abandoned building was erected between 1835 and 1850, and was once home to the Four Points Liquor Store.

Fields expressed regret at the common problem of out-of-town property owners abandoning their bought or inherited property in Natchez, and then neglecting to take proper care of it.

“It’s really a sad situation,” he said.

Dawes estimates that the demolishment of the old building will cost the city about $5,000, although no one has yet been hired tear it down.

He also said that absentee property owners who do not care for their structures pose a common problem in Natchez, although he emphasized that it is not a new issue to the town.

“It may happen more frequently, but these things have been going on for 100 years,” he said.

Dawes said Thompson will still own the lot after the building is demolished.