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City looks to upgrade gas station before 2016

The first draft of the new Sprint Mart, to be located at 193 E. Franklin St. The rendering was proposed by Paul Dixon, a Vicksburg-based architect. (submitted)

The first draft of the new Sprint Mart, to be located at 139 E. Franklin St. The rendering was proposed by Paul Dixon, a Vicksburg-based architect. (submitted)

NATCHEZ — With Natchez’s 300th birthday around the corner, city leaders are making sure everything is in tip-top shape — including area gas stations.

The Shell gas station, located at 139 E. Franklin St. across from the Monmouth Historic Inn, is set to receive a complete facelift before the Tricentennial year.

Frankie Legaux, director of planning and zoning for the city, said whenever a property is within 300 feet of a registered historic property, construction plans must be approved by the Natchez Historic Preservation Commission.

“Since it’s so close to Monmouth, which is a historic landmark, we have to make sure it adheres to a certain set of rules,” said Legaux, adding that those rules mostly encompass making sure the building’s exterior is compatible with “historic aesthetics.”

Vicksburg-based architect Paul Dixon will lead the project, which is currently in its first phase.

“What they’re going to do is tear down the existing building and construct a new one on that lot,” Legaux explained. “Right now, they’re proposing a modification plan, which has to be approved by city planning.”

Currently, the proposed draft features a brick exterior with a “symmetrical” style, Legaux said. Parking will be in the back of the building, and two more gas pumps will be added to the station.

Hot food, along with a small coffee shop, will also be offered in the new Sprint Mart.

“Right now, we think (the new building) will serve hot fried chicken, but that hasn’t been finalized yet,” Legaux said.

Since the station is located on a central road that leads to the downtown area, Legaux said there has been extra pressure to have updates made before 2016.

Once plans are finalized and accepted by the commission, Legaux said construction would begin immediately.

“They’re doing this to several gas stations throughout town — gradually modernizing and enlarging them,” Legaux said. “Areas that are considered gateways to the town are especially getting looked at.”

Another feature the new Sprint Mart will include is an ice station that can be accessed through the interior and exterior of the building. Also, dumpsters will be moved to an area behind the gas station, which will be enclosed by fencing.

“We’re really excited about this renovation,” Legaux said. “And, it’s great that we have someone from Vicksburg, a place that also has a historic district, drafting the plans.”

The next draft for the Sprint Mart will be presented to the commission some time in April.