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Public invited to FOR Natchez feedback sessions

 

NATCHEZ — Residents have two upcoming opportunities to have their say in “The Next 300 Years” as part of FOR Natchez’s downtown revitalization plan.

The group is hosting two feedback sessions to get Natchezians’ input before a final plan is presented to the mayor and board of aldermen in November.

Both meetings will take place in the City Council Chambers building located at 115 S. Pearl St. The first meeting will be with the Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, while the second meeting with the City Planning Committee is planned for the same time on Sept. 21.

The feedback sessions grant an opportunity for the public to comment on ideas that have arisen so far, ranging from two-way parking to reestablishing the Ritz Theatre to installing a restaurant at the depot building.

FOR Natchez President Chesney Doyle said public feedback is as important as ever for this project, which has depended on input from locals since its March inception.

“By the time this (final plan) gets on the desk of the city council members, they need to be confident that this is the direction that the city wants to go in,” Doyle said. “Now is the time for people to come to a meeting and say, ‘I like this idea,’ or ‘I hate this idea, and here’s why.’”

After viewing a big-picture concept of potential ideas for downtown Natchez’s future, attendants can record their comments about plans for the study’s “bookends,” or main focus areas: the bluff area and the M.L.K. Triangle, also referred to as the traditionally Black business district.

The downtown revitalization plan is being crafted by consultant group The Walker Collaborative, headed by former Natchez City Planner Phil Walker.

To date, the group has identified main priorities such as rehabilitating buildings, especially in the M.L.K. Triangle before they are lost due to dilapidation, and redeveloping buildings or constructing new buildings in undeveloped areas.

The concept plan also consists of specific ideas such as enhancing the Natchez Convention Center, identifying areas for potential parking lots and garages, establishing and expanding children’s and dog parks, and bringing affordable housing to downtown.

Those who attend the feedback sessions will receive a packet listing most of the main ideas from the big-picture concept plan. They are asked to write comments and suggestions in the packet and deposit them in the mailbox at 101 N. Commerce St. by Sept. 25.

That feedback will be considered by the project’s 14-member steering committee, which includes the likes of Doyle, Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Irving, downtown Natchez Farmer’s Market coordinator Eddie Burkes and community organizer Robert Pernell.

The committee then aims to have their feedback to the Walker Collaborative by Oct. 2.

Doyle said the project on track to achieve its initial timeline of having a final plan prepared by November. Doyle said the plan is currently still in the concept phase, but the goal is to have a set-in-stone proposal by November.

“If city council gets into a situation where they feel they need to remake the plan before they adopt it, then we will have failed,” she said.

Doyle said she plans schedule a few more meetings for public feedback in the near future.