Natchez officials support tax incentives for Prentiss Club hotel project

Published 5:46 pm Wednesday, June 16, 2021

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NATCHEZ — The Prentiss Club on Jefferson Street and historic bank building within the same block on Franklin Street could one day be part of a five-star luxury hotel after the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen showed support for tax incentives on the project during a special called meeting Tuesday.

The Prentiss Club was donated to the Historic Natchez Foundation by its previous owners Fred and Melinda Kent after it was severely damaged by a fire in 2018.

On Tuesday, the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted 5-0 on a resolution of intent to consider a tax increment financing bond valued up to $2.5 million to aid the development of several downtown Natchez properties. Alderman Billie Joe Frazier was absent during the meeting.

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The properties include the Prentiss Club, the old Natchez Bank building neighboring the Guest House restaurant on Franklin Street, Smoot’s Grocery & Blues Lounge and an adjacent building and the historic train depot building on Broadway Street.

Film producers Tate Taylor and John Norris signed a lease with the City of Natchez in April with plans to renovate the depot and build a small amphitheater, an indoor and outdoor restaurant and public restrooms on the property.

Peyton Prospere of Watkins and Eager said a TIF bond would rebate the growth in ad valorem and a portion of sales taxes generated by the developed property to the developers for public improvements, such as sidewalks, parking, drainage streets and lighting. In return, the developers would make a $15 million private investment into the properties.

Because the bond uses only unrealized revenue from the property developments, the city would not have any financial risks, he said.

“We are right now seeing historic growth in our community and the opportunities here are amazing. This is one of those opportunities,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said of the program.

Gibson said the city has participated in a similar program in the past for building the Natchez Grand Hotel and Holiday Inn.

The City of Natchez must first host a public hearing before the TIF agreement can be approved. While a date for the public hearing has not been set, Gibson said the meeting could be in July to allow enough time to advertise it to the public.

Additionally, the board adopted a resolution showing support of a tourism incentive program administered by the Mississippi Development Authority.

The program is reserved for resort-style projects meant to draw tourists to a destination, such as a hotel, Prospere said.

With this program, MDA would revert 30 percent of the $15 million private investment, or approximately $4.5 million, back to the developer from state sales taxes and tourism taxes. The taxes would be diverted until the $4.5 million is repaid or until 15 years have lapsed, Prospere said, adding the developers believe they will recoup the $4.5 million over a short time period.

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the board approved the allocation of $4,000 for a Commercial Airline Study for the Natchez-Adams County Airport. The Board also moved the date of their next regularly scheduled meeting to 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, so the meeting would not conflict with the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala, which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, at the Natchez Convention Center.