Work on Broadway Street depot to wait for revitalization plan

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017


NATCHEZ — Natchez residents should not expect to see much activity at the Broadway Street depot until a downtown revitalization plan currently in the works has been completed.

Mayor Darryl Grennell said the depot will be included in FOR Natchez’s downtown plan, and any action regarding the building would likely not happen until the plan is complete.

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The depot was set to be developed by New Orleans hotelier Warren Reuther after a deal was approved in November 2015. The city came under fire for the perceived lack of transparency and questions of legality in previous dealings for the depot, and the aldermen ultimately rescinded the deal in late September 2016.

Officials said at the time the city would later issues requests for proposals to develop the property.

Grennell said Tuesday he thinks it is important the depot be included in the FOR Natchez project and that potential development reflect the goals of an overall downtown plan.

Former city planner Phil Walker’s firm — The Walker Collaborative — has been hired to develop the downtown plan.

Walker said he did not want to speculate now on potential uses of the building, which has housed a restaurant and gift shop in the past.

Walker said a real estate economist on the firm’s team would be conducting a market analysis of what type of retail and dining could be supported downtown. That analysis, he said, could help guide successful development of the depot.

Additionally, Walker said a key element of the plan’s development would be public input. The process for creating the plan involves several meetings during which residents and stakeholders will be given the opportunity to brainstorm ideas with the firm’s team.

“We would like to see what the public has in mind, so that combined with the market analysis is important,” Walker said. “I would want to let that process play itself out before speculating on the use of the building.”

Walker said the depot will receive attention in the plan because it is in the study area and on the bluff, an anchor point downtown.

“Not that every single piece of property can get a detailed recommendation on what it should be, but when it’s on the bluff, publicly owned and a unique historic building, it will get a lot more attention.”

FOR Natchez kicked off the process to develop the plan last week, which is expected to take six to eight months.