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New RFP for old depot approved by aldermen

 

NATCHEZ — The old Broadway Street depot is once again on the market for potential business entrepreneurs willing to revamp the vacant building into a food, beverage and entertainment venue.

Natchez Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a newly revised request for proposals for the old Broadway Street depot during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting.

A previous request issued December 2018 had been officially withdrawn after other venues such as Dunleith and the former Bowies Tavern went up for auction, Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said.

“We don’t want to be competing with other prospective businesses,” Grennell said.

FOR Natchez Executive Director Chesney Doyle said the city plans to lease the depot as a hub for a downtown entertainment district outlined in the Downtown Master Plan, which aims to bring economic development and revitalization to Downtown Natchez.

“It’s a solid business opportunity that would represent a win, win for the city and the proposer and the downtown economy,” Doyle said. “… Things are happening, real estate is moving, and we are following the plan.”

Doyle said she received valuable feedback during the initial advertisement of the depot, and she had taken that advice into consideration while the new request for proposals was being drafted.

“We had a pre-proposal conference with several interested parties who made serious inquiries about the depot,” Doyle said. “The time elapsed while Bowies was up for sale worked to our favor because it gave us the opportunity to make revisions to the RFP in response to feedback from those interested parties. … We paid careful attention and consulted with commercial real estate professionals and developers.”

Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc., said the primary changes to the RFP included two major changes, one of them being the inclusion of a capital improvement credit incentive which caps at $300,000 worth of changes to the site.

“The credit is applied to the monthly base rent over the course of the lease,” Russ said. “We anticipate whoever ends up with the property will have a substantial capital investment in the city-owned property. That is a sunk cost that can never be recouped unless you allow them to apply that cost towards rent. … The ability to forgive one as a trade off for the investment makes the property more profitable and hopefully will attract some potential investors.”

Another change increased the rent price to $36,000 per year, or $3,000 per month, in order for the price to be in line with market rates and also take full advantage of the capital improvement credit, Russ said.

Doyle said the new request for proposals does a better job of clarifying the city’s willingness to provide credit for improvements to the building as well as listing requirements of the proposals submitted.

“People want to know what the process is and how much weight is given to the various aspects of the response,” Doyle said. “The city is committed to making that process clear. … I feel that the board has done a very fine job of putting together a request that is designed to drive the city’s official vision of creating a food, beverage and entertainment venue and at the same time is flexible enough to allow an individual entrepreneur to apply their creative vision to define what that venue will be.”

City Attorney Bob Latham said the new request for proposals would be posted for public view on the city of Natchez website.

The deadline to submit proposals for the depot is Nov. 1 and the selection process ends Dec. 15, Latham said.

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