Natchez officials accept property donation near Eola for potential parking garage

Published 5:42 pm Thursday, July 15, 2021

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Thursday accepted a donation of the Fry Building, located at the corner of Pearl and Franklin streets, from Walter Davis III, managing partner of Fry Building.

The city intends to use the property to build a parking garage.

The property is adjacent to the Eola Hotel, which is a big factor in why officials have accepted the donation, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said.

“The reason the city is accepting this donation is because we have a parking shortage in Downtown Natchez and we need a parking garage,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve been pursing the development of the Eola Hotel and we’re still working, but we know that will never take place unless ample parking is available for the Eola Hotel. This is an important step forward if we are to ever see that important, historic landmark building restored.”

Officials said they plan to build an attractive, multi-level parking garage with street-level retail along Franklin and Pearl streets that complies with the city planning and preservation commission regulations.

“The city has to comply with the planning commission just as any business or citizen has done,” Gibson said.

The board voted unanimously to accept the donation. All aldermen were in attendance at the special meeting, except for Ward Six Alderman Dan Dillard, who could not attend.

After the meeting, Gibson said the city is “not in a rush” to develop a parking garage on its own.

“We want this to be a complement to the Eola Hotel and so we still have to wait as we work our way through other issues pertaining to what we hope will be an eventual development of the Eola Hotel. We’re working in that direction and today was a major step forward in that process.”

Existing businesses would be given ample notice from the city before the building is demolished, he said. While the city has looked at the cost of such a project, Gibson said the figures varied so widely that he would rather wait until their plans are more defined before quoting an estimated cost. The city has not hired an engineer or architect for the project.

As for funding the project, “We have a number of options available but we’re not ready to commit to one just yet,” Gibson said.

While still in the early planning phase, Gibson said he is “very excited” about the project.

“This would not be happening were it not for the generosity of Walter Davis and the Fry-Davis family,” he said. “We are today and forever will be grateful to them for their generosity and their love for Natchez.”