Let’s pack the Natchez Convention Center Tuesday

Published 12:40 am Monday, February 19, 2018

Dear citizens of Natchez-Adams,

The City Council and I invite everyone to join us at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Natchez Convention Center for the presentation of our draft downtown revitalization plan.  Our consultants — Phil Walker, Keith Covington, Tronn Moller, and Randall Gross — will present the plan and answer our questions. 

I am so proud of our community.  To all of you who have participated in public meetings and focus groups, contributed funds or volunteered your time, energy and expertise, you have my sincere thanks.  We set out to make a plan to revitalize our downtown.  We have done just that.

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Our goal for this plan is the same today as it was when we launched this project:  To work together as a community to attract outside investors, increase tax revenues, improve quality of life, create jobs and keep more of our young people in Natchez and at work.

What are the next steps?  First, we want you to participate in the draft plan presentation tomorrow night and bring your questions.  Next, the city’s advisory committee and the FOR Natchez Steering Committee will work with the consultants on necessary revisions.  Then, the City Council will have the opportunity to adopt our downtown plan and turn our town around for the better. 

As promised, this plan is grounded in vigorous public engagement, solid economic analyses, and expert urban planning. The plan’s retail market analysis indicates that downtown Natchez could capture substantial retail demand with pro-active recruitment of location-independent businesses and the establishment of a destination tourism strategy focused on downtown. The housing market analysis shows that potential downtown residents are wanting small one-story cottages, “maintenance-free” cluster homes, upper-floor apartments in mixed-use buildings, new construction single family homes and some infill rental/mixed-use buildings.

But, there is a big caveat to all these projections and it is this:  We have to work the plan. The plan’s implementation section includes action steps for prioritizing, phasing and marketing. Yes, we have experienced a decline in population and economy. Yes, we have limited fiscal resources in both the public and private sectors.  Yes, we are plagued with frequent political and racial divides.  I also say YES to our ability to change this tale of woe into a win-win for us all.

Downtown is not only the heart of our community, it is an industry that generates jobs and income. It is an economic generator for the entire community. Sometimes, we forget that hundreds of people work downtown.  If we can attract more investment and businesses to the downtown area, then hundreds more will have jobs.

So, let’s continue to forge ahead together with energy for the future of our town.  We can be that shining city on the hill, a beacon of light and hope for other small towns in Mississippi and the South. We in Natchez can lead the way, set the example and show others how we came together as one people, as one community, to build on our past to create our future.

I look forward to continuing this journey with you at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow night at the Natchez Convention Center.

Darryl V. Grennell is the Mayor of the City of Natchez.