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City finalizing request for proposals for old depot on Broadway Street

 

NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he hopes the future of the old train depot on Broadway Street will be decided just after the new year.

Grennell and the Natchez Board of Aldermen met behind closed doors Monday evening to discuss the potential lease of the building which has sat empty for more than two years,

Grennell said the board is the final stages of developing a request for proposals that he hopes could be issued as soon as the board’s next meeting on Nov. 13.

Grennell said alderman Dan Dillard, who is chairman of public properties, FOR Natchez President Chesney Doyle and City Attorney Bob Latham have been making final changes to a draft of the RFP that will be delivered to aldermen before the next meeting.

“That will give board members time to review the proposals and give them an opportunity to suggest any changes and have any discussion on the RFP at the (Nov. 13) meeting,” Grennell said.

“If there are only minor modifications to the proposal, I hope we will be able to release the RFP at that meeting,” Grenell said.

Aldermen voted in February to begin the process and craft the request for proposals for the building, which had an exterior renovation in 2016, but has sat unused ever since.

Previously the city had leased the use of the building to Warren Reuther and a subsidiary of his company New Orleans Hotel Consultants. Reuther had intended to create a tourist center.

Amid controversy about how the lease was offered to Reuther without a public request for other proposals, the city canceled the agreement with Reuther in October 2016 and agreed to pay him $80,000. Reuther had already started work on the interior of the building and the city’s payment simply reimbursed Reuther for the costs of that work. Grennell said the city waited until the board adopted the Downtown Revitalization Plan created by former city planner Phil Walker and his company The Walker Collaborative before they finalized the RFP for the depot.

“It allowed the Walker group to come up with suggestions of what it could be and help us craft the RFP,” Grennell said.

The master plan, spearheaded by the local group FOR Natchez, was three-years in the making and consists of multiple phases that includes rezoning and redesigning the bluff where the depot is located. The plan also addresses other areas of downtown including the MLK Triangle area — consisting of Martin Luther King Jr., St. Catherine and Franklin streets — and creating an arts district on the block of Commerce Street between Main and Franklin streets.

Grennell said he hopes the RFP can be issued in early November. If all works as planned, Grennell said a final decision about the lease of the building could be decided between December and January.

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