Renovation plans taking off at the old train depot

Published 11:30 am Friday, July 21, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Within the next few weeks, the City of Natchez plans to advertise for bids on the renovation of the old historic train depot building on Broadway Street, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said.

It was announced in January that the depot rehabilitation project had been awarded $143,750 in Community Heritage Preservation Grant funds from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The city’s local match of those funds would be around $48,000, which is enough to move forward with renovating the southern half of the building, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said.

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“Those plans include a downtown visitor center for the depot with a large reception area, where individuals can get information about Natchez,” he said. “In the center, there will be public restrooms and a small viewing room for what we hope will soon be in production, a new movie about Natchez.”

Gibson said he is now working on a joint venture with Visit Natchez for the agency to assist with running the facility on a day-to-day basis, which would first have to be approved by the Board of Aldermen.

“We still have to work through those details,” he said.

Gibson added plans for the northern half could be left up to a new investor.

Soon the city will issue a Request for Proposals open to anyone who would like to develop and lease that side of the building, he said. The city’s proposal only includes the interior of the southern half and all exterior renovation of the depot, Gibson said.

In 2021, filmmaker Tate Taylor from Church Hill answered the RFP issued by the previous administration with plans to renovate the entire building for a fine-dining restaurant and entertainment venue. However, those plans never came to fruition.

“We have to start fresh,” Gibson said.

As is the case with many historic buildings, both the city’s and potential investors’ projects have to receive the approval of MDAH.

Waycaster and Associates architect Johnny Waycaster said he is in the process of presenting those drawings to MDAH for the city’s side and does not foresee and issues getting approval.

“We’ve gone through this process once before and had it reviewed and approved, so we know what they’re looking for,” he said. “Under the former administration, there was an agreement to lease this space to a private individual to develop it in a similar manner to what is being considered now. The scope is similar to what was presented and approved.”

Waycaster said bidding on the project is a 30-day process, and construction could begin 45 to 60 days after. Dependent on the contractor and their schedules and the availability of material, construction may take anywhere from 120 to 180 days, he said.

Waycaster said the city would be proceeding with the renovation of the southern half regardless of the timing and construction of the northern half.