Mayor says in statement to aldermen Eola project still moving forward

Published 3:52 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Eola Hotel project is not only happening but is on track.

That was the message Tuesday conveyed by Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith, who was acting as mayor pro tempore at the city’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Dan Gibson, who she said was out of town.

She read a statement on the Eola Hotel project, prepared by the mayor.

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“The city has had the opportunity to have several important meetings very recently with the Eola development team, including the lead developer, Randy Roth and the owner, Rob Lubin,” Carter Smith said. “At our last meeting on Sept. 7, we pressed the team hard on scheduled, including a frank discussion on whether the project is on track in their estimation. After hearing reports from every person on the development and ownership team, we are satisfied that the project is not only happening but is on track. The infusion of significant cash into the project, both on the part of the developers and the owner, further increases our confidence.”

She said the city has voiced concerns on behalf of not only the citizens of Natchez, “but of our downtown merchants and property owners. The building in its current state is indeed concerning.”

The message from the mayor was that the Eola team shares the city’s concerns and understands the seriousness of “keeping to a realistic and clearly defined schedule.”

The project, first launched in August 2021, has been plagued with radically increase construction cost estimates and has had to be scaled down to continue.

The mayor in a letter shared by Carter Smith at the meeting Tuesday, said the city has asked the development team and owner to share their own statements concerning the project and to release publicly a timeline for the project.

“While we know that we, on behalf of the city, are doing all we can to move this project forward, we are now more confident than ever that the development team and owner are fully committed and are doing all that is needed to move the project forward. We fully expect this important anchor to our downtown to have new life soon,” the mayor’s message concluded.

Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier remained doubtful.

“I will believe it when I see it,” Frazier said.