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City may decide on future of former General Hospital building today

 

NATCHEZ — City officials are expected to recommend today to the Natchez Board of Aldermen that a nonprofit foundation be permitted to develop the former General Hospital building into a senior living facility.

The board recently received two proposals in response to a request for ideas to make use of the vacant city-owned building.

A committee comprised of Mayor Darryl 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, met last week to review the proposals.

Grennell said Monday the committee would likely recommend the board accept the proposal from Magnolia Medical Foundation to turn the building into a senior living facility for residents 55 years and older.

Grennell said the foundation would be making an approximately $3 million investment into renovating the dilapidated Oak Street building.

The Jackson-based foundation is registered with the state  as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and has a Natchez office.

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.

Alterations to the building and other plans for the property would likely need approval from the Natchez Preservation Commission, as the building is in the historic district, and the Natchez Planning Commission.

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

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

The proposal stated the ministry would be seeking grants to renovate the building.

With federal funding cuts looming, Grennell said the grant funding for the programs and building might not be awarded or be a stable funding source.

The board is expected to take up discussion of the proposals during its regular meeting beginning at 11 a.m. today in the City Council Chambers.

Grennell said he is open to scheduling a public hearing on the development of the building, if the aldermen wish to do so before accepting a proposal.

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.

The building has recently been subject to copper theft, as well as theft of pipes that caused flooding in the building. The city utilized inmate labor to clean up the first floor of the building so potential developers could view the property.