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City of Natchez receives proposals to develop former General Hospital building

NATCHEZ — Two proposals to develop the former General Hospital building on Oak Street envision the property as a church-run center for community improvement programs or a senior living facility.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen recently received two proposals in response to the city’s request for ideas for the city-owned building’s use.

New Direction Outreach Ministries submitted a proposal to use the building as a “citizen enhancement facility” to house grant programs aimed at improving Natchez.

New Direction Worship Center’s the Rev. Kevin Deason said the ministry is seeking grants to renovate the dilapidated building, which is located near the Oak Street church.

The church’s proposal is to use the building to house educational and outreach programs to assist low- to moderate-income residents in enhancing their quality of life, Deason said.

The programs would include senior citizen activities, youth mentoring and after-school programs, recreation, family counseling, meal delivery, jobs training and other resources.

Magnolia Medical Foundation, which is based in Jackson and has an office in Natchez, submitted a proposal to turn the building into a senior living facility for residents 55 years and older.

The facility would feature a minimum of 15 and a maximum of approximately 30 apartments, mostly one-bedroom but some two-bedroom.

The gated property would include a game room, craft area, theater, computer lounge, fitness center, library, salon, retail, outdoor walking trails and gardens.

The proposal included starting immediately on the project, which would include a total renovation of the facility. The design and construction period would take approximately  one year, and the proposal estimated the renovation completed by the summer of 2018.

The New Direction proposal included a lease price of $1 per year for a 50-year lease. The Magnolia Medical proposal did not include a proposed lease amount.

Mayor Darryl Grennell said the goal of seeking proposals is not for the city to get revenue from a lease agreement, but to have a developer renovate the building and eliminate an eyesore in the neighborhood.

“The building is in terrible shape,” Grennell said. “We had to use inmate labor to go in and clean up the first floor just so developers could look at it. The building is sitting there as an eyesore. This is an opportunity for the city to be able to get the property fixed up and rehabilitated.”

Grennell has said the building has been subject to copper theft, as well as theft of pipes that caused flooding in the building.

The building was constructed in 1925 and once housed Natchez General Hospital.

Through the years, the building was the location of the Guardian Shelter and served as apartments.

Gleichman and Company formerly owned the building, which was abandoned along with Brumfield Apartments by its management company, Stanford Management, in February 2011.

The building was turned over to the state after taxes went unpaid, and the state turned over ownership to the city.

Neighboring residents spoke out in 2013 against a proposed affordable housing development in the building.

A committee comprised of Grennell, City Attorney Bob Latham, Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, in whose ward the building is located, and Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard, chair of the city’s public properties committee, is expected to meet this week to review the proposals.

Grennell said the committee likely would make a recommendation on the proposals at the aldermen’s next meeting on April 11.