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FOR Natchez downtown revitalization project kicks off Monday

 

NATCHEZ — The group seeking to revitalize downtown will kick off the project Monday with a public meeting at the Natchez Convention Center.

FOR Natchez will begin the six- to eight-month study of downtown with the meeting during which the project’s team with The Walker Collaborative introducing the project, explaining the process and how public input will factor into the final plan.

“This is just the beginning of a six- to eight-month (project) that depends on community engagement,” FOR Natchez President Chesney Doyle said. “The data the consultants need to inform the plan is the input of the citizens of Natchez.”

The team is made up of former Natchez city planner Phil Walker, Keith Covington, Lee Jones, Tron Moller and Randall Gross.

FOR Natchez’s objective is to create a plan for downtown development that will replace the 17-year-old portion of the city’s comprehensive plan regarding downtown.

The group’s strategy is to establish the bluff and business district surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Street where businesses are traditionally owned by African-American residents. For those two anchor points, the goal is to further develop the bluff into a signature public park and the Martin Luther King Jr. Street area into a black history district.

The study will include stakeholder meetings as well as retail and housing marketing analyses, Doyle said.

“The retail and housing market analyses are to determine the potential of our downtown for retail and housing, which is an industry, too,” Doyle said. “I think it is important to think of downtown Natchez as one big industry and also as a job creator. … Hundreds of people work downtown … and we want more of that.”

The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to officially support the downtown revitalization plan in 2015. The project’s planning process will also include meeting with elected officials, city department heads, business and property owners, real estate developers and various other stakeholders.

The public meetings, Doyle said, are a very important part of the process.

“We need to get as many people as possible to come out and basically commit to following this process,” she said. “When the consultants come back on their second trip, they’re going to have a big public (meeting at which) people will break down into small groups and sit there with a consultant, a map and a marker and will becomes city planners for the day. They will tell the consultants what they feel they needs to happen in downtown.”

Monday’s meeting is scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. at the convention center. It is free and open to the public.