Aldermen approve bid for renovations to city’s Depot on Bluff

Published 11:12 am Friday, December 1, 2023

NATCHEZ — Renovations are expected to begin shortly on The Depot building on the Bluff after the Board of Aldermen awarded the bid for construction to Wilmar Construction.

The successful base bid accepted was $247,380, said Community Development Director James Johnston, subject to review and approval by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“This is a big deal,” said Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson on Tuesday. “We are so grateful the bids came in within budget.”

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Gibson asked Johnston when construction would begin.

“We hope to have the pre-construction meetings as early as late next week and begin construction ASAP,” Johnston replied.

Gibson said the goal is to have the facility functional with Visit Natchez providing the staffing and support by the spring tour season.

“This is very good news. Thank you for all your hard work on this Mr. Johnson, and thank you to Mr. (Johnny) Waycaster and Waycaster and Associates and all involved,” he said.

Johnston asked to waive the building permit fee for the project, which aldermen agreed to do unanimously.

Later in the meeting, City Attorney Bryan Callaway presented the terms of a contract between the city and Visit Natchez, which will begin as soon as construction is completed. Visit Natchez will operate the visitors’ center.

At one time, Church Hill residents and Natchez businessmen and filmmakers Tate Taylor and John Norris leased the Depot building in hopes of turning it into a fine-dining restaurant. However, in part because of the extreme inflation in equipment and construction prices brought about by COVID, Taylor, Norris and their partners scrapped those plans.

The visitor center will occupy about two thirds of the southern half of the building. It has yet to be decided what will happen with the other portion of the building. Warren Reuther and partners had at one time talked about developing it, but no concrete plans have been made.

• Mayor Gibson swore in two new Natchez Police Department officers, Rodranequa Terrell and Gracie LaCroix, who are recent graduates of the state’s law enforcement academy.

Natchez Police Chief Cal Green said between the two, they brought home the top academic award, marksmanship and best all around student award from the academy.

• Ward 1 Alderman Valencia Hall, asked aldermen to considering purchasing a memorial bench in memory of Henry “Eddie” West, who died in April of this year.

“For 48 years, Eddie and the Harvest Golf Club brought golfers from across this country and the Bahamas to Natchez for the Harvest Golf Tournament. They brought in every year a million and a half dollars into this community,” Hall said.

“In 2019, he attracted over 120 golfers for the Harvest Golf Tournament, which was the largest number of golfers recorded brought into this area. They had to use both Beau Pre and Duncan Park golf courses for the tournament,” she said.

Hall said West gave golf lessons to member of the area’s Special Olympics team as well as thousands of lessons to men, women, girls and boys. She said he also gave scholarships to deserving students every year and donated golf clubs and golf balls to the high school.

Aldermen voted unanimously to purchase the bench, to be places at the Duncan Park driving range, in West’s memory.