Group seeks public input on how to restore Natchez College

Published 12:47 am Sunday, November 27, 2016


NATCHEZ — The General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi hopes to reestablish its home in Natchez.

To do that, the convention is seeking input from the community on the redevelopment of the former Natchez College campus off North Union Street in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

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The convention is hosting a public meeting at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Natchez City Council Chambers to give local residents an opportunity to share their ideas for the historic property.

The group’s executive director of the congress of Christian education the Rev. Reginald Buckley of Jackson said the convention values the ideas of the community as the group embarks on its mission to restore the property.

“We feel it’s important to hear from the community as we restore part of the fabric of Natchez,” he said.

The convention established Natchez College in 1885.  The college opened shortly after the American Baptist Home Missionary Society of New York relocated the Natchez Seminary for educating African-American ministers from Natchez to Jackson, where it eventually evolved into Jackson State University.

The property has sat vacant for many years, and the convention intends to restore it and convert at least a portion of it to offices for the convention, Buckley said.

“Because Natchez is sort of the beginning of black Baptists in the state of Mississippi, we feel it’s very fitting to have sort of a central office located there,” he said.

Other ideas of uses of the property include housing the convention’s seminary as well as interpretation of the property’s history and event space.

“It will be a place for preservation, but also a place to host events and to also return to its historical usage, which was a seminary,” Buckley said. “We do envision that the future of the Mississippi Baptist Seminary would have a west campus there in Natchez.”

The project plans include at least three phases, Buckley said, with development happening over a number of years.

“We see it happening over a seven- or eight-year span … with the first phase beginning as soon as we can get this input we desire and secure funding,” he said.

The overall project cost will likely be $15 to $18 million, Buckley said.

The convention looks to supplement its fundraising with grants and other monies available, Buckley said.

Included in the Mississippi Legislature’s recent bond bill, House Bill 1729, was $400,000 for Natchez College.

Some project funding included in the bill, however, is being reconsidered, Buckley said, including the money for Natchez College. The convention is awaiting word of whether the funding for the college will receive final approval.

In the meantime, Buckley said the convention looks forward to working with the local community to restore Natchez College.

“We believe Natchez is the right place to be a hub for our history,” he said. “It’s kind of like we are coming home.”