Downtown Natchez Alliance applies for grant to develop Depot Park at the Natchez Bluff

Published 10:44 am Saturday, September 16, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Downtown Natchez Alliance has submitted a grant application in the amount of $362,000 for development of the bluff at the Depot.

The grant application is in accordance with the city’s Downtown Master Plan, said Chesney Doyle, a Downtown Natchez Alliance board member, who authored the grant with assistance from James Johnston, the city’s director of community development.

“The project is called the Depot Park at the Natchez Bluff,” Doyle said. “This grant is the new Main Street Revitalization Grant funded by the state legislature.”

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The City of Natchez has pledged a $90,500 match, should the grant be awarded for the project.

The city’s Downtown Master Plan is an example of how city planning works to support economic revitalization and private investment, Doyle said.

The grant application received 11 letters of support from public and private groups and individuals here.

“The Natchez Bluff, our city’s most unique and precious natural asset, is nearly 200 feet high, with a view of the Mississippi River that is second to none. The depot property is a one-acre lot on the edge of the bluff, fronted by Broadway Street,” the application reads. It notes that the historic former train depot, built in 1910, is the only remaining enclosed structure on the public bluff.

The city has invested approximately $900,000 in the renovation of the building since 2016, largely funded by the Mississippi Department of Transportation; however, there is no funding for the development of the surrounding Depot Park, according to the grant application.

The DNA grant application notes the project is about more than beautification of the area.

“It is about executing an economic revitalization strategy that was officially adopted by the city in 2018,” the application reads.

It also calls attention to the fact that the project addresses all four points of the Main Street Community approach, which include design, economic vitality, promotion and organization.

The goals of The Depot Park at the Natchez Bluff, as outlined in the grant application, are to “transform an undeveloped parcel of land on our Landmark bluff into a prime destination for locals and tourists,” “to connect the adjacent Trailhead Pavilion and wayside exhibits to the southern end of the bluff,” to serve as “a catalyst for the development of the city’s Broadway Street Entertainment District, inspiring private infill development, redevelopment and new business,” and “ignite development beyond the adjacent lots to the under-developed properties along Canal, Wall, and nearby secondary streets, eventually bridging the gap between the Broadway Street Entertainment District and the historic downtown’s denser central business district and civic core.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said he is thankful for the Downtown Natchez Alliance.

“We are so grateful to Mickey Howley, Michael Pace and our team at the Downtown Natchez Alliance for leading this amazing effort,” he said. “Our historic Depot on the Bluff is soon to become a much-needed downtown visitors center, and I can think of no better way to complete our vision for this facility than following through with the outside improvements as included in our city’s master plan.

“Our placement on the majestic Mississippi River is unlike that of any other city. And capitalizing on the views of that river from this historic gem are the perfect strategy for taking Natchez and Mississippi tourism to the next level, while adding to the charm of our downtown,” Gibson said.