Visitor Center, public restrooms now open inside historic train depot on Broadway Street

Published 12:14 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

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NATCHEZ — A long-awaited Visitor Center and public restroom that has been long awaited by both tourists and local Natchezians alike has opened this week inside the historic train depot on Broadway Street.

As of Tuesday, the Visitor Center at the south end of the depot closest to Roth Hill is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 to 3 p.m. and closed on Mondays. Restrooms inside of the facility will be open during those business hours.

The new Visitor Center still needs final touches, such as outside signage, furniture, and a screen and projector for showing a welcome video in what will be the theater room. But out of necessity, it is open to fill the primary need, welcoming tourists and answering their questions.

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Better late than never is the response of downtown business owners, who’ve answered visitor questions throughout Memorial Day weekend while the Main Street Visit Natchez office was closed for the holiday.

“We don’t need just business open. We need the tourist center open where people can ask questions. This past holiday weekend was crazy,” said Natchez Coffee Company owner Sharon Brown who hosted the Downtown Merchants Group meeting on Wednesday.

“Nobody was open — nobody except we the same ones who are always open. We’ve got to do better. We had boats in and everything and people were just wandering around.”

During the passing of the keys to the depot from the City of Natchez to Visit Natchez employees, Lynsey Gilbert, Interim Director of Visit Natchez, said she was happy to see what was once a vacant building fill a big need in the community.

“The city really wanted another central location for visitors and we’re happy to provide that and to welcome them when they get here,” she said.

The depot renovation has been an ongoing project of the city for more than a year after past plans to lease the entire depot for a restaurant development fell through.

In January 2023, the depot rehabilitation project was awarded $143,750 in Community Heritage Preservation Grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to begin renovating the southern half of the building. The city’s local match of those funds is around $48,000, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said at the time.

“Very soon we will see the development of the north end,” Gibson said, adding that it will be an extension of the Natchez Convention Center offering the “Mississippi River Room” as an “unrivaled space for special events, helping us to attract even more conferences to our town,” Gibson said.

Further updates to the Convention Center are due to commence in August because of its busy schedule all summer. This week, the Convention Center hosts between 500 and 600 people attending the 87th Mississippi Firefighters and Fire Chiefs Conference.

Because of its partnership with the Downtown Natchez Alliance, the City of Natchez has also been awarded a $362,000 Mississippi Main Street Revitalization Grant to develop the plaza and the property behind the depot. The city’s match of the grant is $90,500.

New DNA Director Kevin Miers said the development aims to transform the space to “elevate the visitor experience” around the depot and on the Natchez bluff.