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Designing the Project; Winning the Support of the Community and City Government

  In January 2015, FOR Natchez’s board of directors formed a working group of downtown stakeholders to evaluate the need for a professional urban plan to guide economic development and revitalization of Historic Downtown Natchez. Working with urban planner Phil Walker of The Walker Collaborative (Nashville, TN), the team designed a project study area that included the entire downtown, anchored on one end by the 200-foot Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and on the other end by the historic Black business district along Martin Luther King Street.  
  IIn October 2015, after nearly a year of working meetings with city and community leaders and members of public at large, FOR Natchez presented a proposal entitled “The Next 300 Years: The Downtown Natchez Revitalization Project” to Mayor Butch Brown and the City Council. The Aldermen unanimously voted to endorse the project and partner with FOR Natchez to create a professional masterplan to revitalize the heart of our historic city. At that time, the city signed a good faith Letter of Intent agreeing to adopt the resulting plan. The ordinances of the City of Natchez require the city to have a master plan. Once the project was greenlighted by the City Council, FOR Natchez prepared to launch its community engagement plan and fundraising campaign for 2016.  

Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:

Jan 2015 Do You Know Where our City is Headed?

Oct 2015 FOR Natchez: Group Seeking Master Plan to Revitalize Downtown

Dec 2015 FOR Natchez Moving Forward to Create Downtown Plan

Dec 2015 FOR Natchez seeks funds and volunteers for Downtown Revitalization

Engaging the Community; Raising Private Dollars to Fund a Transparent Planning Process.
  In 2016, the City of Natchez celebrated its 300th birthday as the oldest permanent European settlement on the Mississippi River. During 2016, FOR Natchez focused on events and outreach designed to increase awareness of “The Next 300 Years: The Downtown Natchez Revitalization Project” and to ready the community for active participation in the 2017 workshops and feedback sessions. FOR also kicked off a $100,000 fundraising campaign. We raised 70% of the financial goal during the Leadership Campaign phase, followed a Public Campaign phase to raise the remaining 30%.  
  During 2016, FOR Natchez members, volunteers, and city planning consultant Phil Walker made a dozen or more presentations targeting city and county officials, business leaders, churches, schools, and the public at large. These activities included presentations to the city council, the planning commission, private clubs and groups, public meetings, a 5K Run to garner the attention of younger residents, and a publicity campaign featuring newspaper articles, radio promotions, and a social media campaign. Board member and mayoral candidate Darryl Grennell made the project part of his successful campaign platform. He was installed as Mayor on July 1, 2016, at which time, he stepped down as a board member of FOR Natchez. Downtown businessmen Eddie Burkes and Otis Anderson joined the board.  

Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:

Sept 2016 FOR Natchez Kicks Off Public Phase of Fundraising

Nov 2016 Fat Mama’s Fun Run: Local Celebrities Run FOR Natchez Revitalization

Dec 25, 2016 FOR Natchez Tops $100,000 goal

  Also, in 2016, FOR Natchez spearheaded the formation of a public-private alliance between the City, the National Park Service (NPS), Zion Chapel AME, the Historic Natchez Foundation (HNF), the Community Alliance, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), and FOR Natchez to establish the Triangle Trailhead Pavilion in the old Triangle Filling Station in the heart of the black history district. The City received a $9,000 grant from MDAH to repair the building’s roof. FOR Natchez and Zion Chapel raised the $9,000 match. Next, NPS and HNF will work to produce a museum quality display in the open garage end of the Triangle building. It will also serve as the hub of the revitalized Triangle Business District. Historic buildings in this anchor area of our revitalization plan are literally crumbling and falling down.  

Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:

Feb 2016 Triangle Station Discussion with Neighborhood Stakeholders

March 2016 FOR Natchez Support City’s MDAH Grant Application for Triangle Building

Official Start of the 4-Phase Downtown Natchez Revitalization Study
In January 2017, FOR Natchez contracted with the Walker Collaborative to begin the project. We organized a project steering committee and went to work. The Contract broke down the project process into four detailed tasks, which we presented to the public as four phases.
  Phase 1: March 6-8, 2017: Research & Analysis (Stakeholder Meetings, Retail & Housing Market Analyses, Public Kick Off)  
  Phase 1 began with a Public Kick Off at the Natchez Convention Center, attended by over 200 people.  This was followed by ten stakeholder meeting, each with 10-12 participants, representing various aspects of the community:  1) Elected Officials; 2) Tourism & Economic Development Professionals; 3) Downtown Merchants; 4) Property Owners and Real Estate Developers; 5) Residents (Individual and Institutional); 6) Business Owners (Nonretail); 7) Bluff & Broadway Street Stakeholders; 8) MLK Street – Triangle Area Stakeholders.  The Consultants also began their physical findings study and the Economic Analysis.   

Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:

March 2017 FOR Natchez Revitalization Project Kicks Off Monday May 2017

Community Invited to Work Together to Plan our Future. Mayor Grennell: “Let this be our story…


Phase 2: July – Sept 2017: Public Charrette & Concept Plan (In-depth Public workshop; additional ongoing feedback sessions)

  Phase 2 encompassed the critical task of conducting a work session for nearly 300 people, in groups of 10-12, seated at 15 round tables with maps and markers. Via PowerPoint on large screens, the Consultants presented the findings from Phase 1. Then they tasked the participants with reacting to the findings and presenting new ideas. The work accomplished at this session, called a Public Charrette, was combined with previous research and information to create a “Concept Plan.” The Consultants then presented the Concept Plan as a PowerPoint presentation at a subsequent public meeting and the process of gathering public feedback began.  

Hinks to the PDF versions of the July 2017 Workshop Presentation (Findings of Phase 1) and the Concept Plan Presentation (Result of Phase 2) are posted on the FOR Natchez homepage.


Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:

July 2017 You Are Invited to Share Ideas: FOR Natchez has succeeded in a two-fold goal: Preserving the public ownership of the Riverfront and creating an awareness of the unique national gem

July 2017 Residents Share Their Vision of Natchez

July 2017 Locals Present Downtown Ideas at FOR Natchez Workshop; Consultants Present Physical and Economic Findings

July 2017 FOR Natchez Plan Presents Concept for the Future

July 2017 What is Next for FOR Natchez’s Downtown Project: Moving Forward to Phase 3


Phase 3: Oct - Jan 2018: Preparation and Delivery of Draft Master Plan (Includes Implementation Strategies.)

  During Phase 3, in agreement with the City Aldermen and the Walker Collaborative, we decided to take additional time to gather more in-depth feedback from the community on the Concept Plan. We held additional public forums at City Council Chambers and also conducted additional meetings in the community. Once satisfied that we had gathered as much public input and feedback as possible, we moved on to Phase 3, the preparation of the actual Draft Plan.  

Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:

Sept 2017 Public Invited to FOR Natchez Feedback Sessions

Dec 2017 FOR Natchez Downtown Proposal Coming Soon: Chesney Doyle: “The lack of coherent plan can deter investors. No investor wants to be the only investor. They want to know there is a plan.”


2018 Digital Delivery of Draft Plan for Comment, Town Hall Meeting, Revisions & Adoption

  Monday, January 29, 2018 - The Walker Group delivered a preliminary digital copy of the Draft Plan. The City, FOR Natchez, and our Community Partners are disseminating the plan to the public for review and comment.  
  Phase 4: Feb-March 2018: Plan Presentation, Revisions & Adoption of the Plan by the City Council  

On Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 5:30 pm, Natchez Convention Center, the Consultants presented the Draft Master Plan at a Town Hall Meeting. After gathering more community input and final revisions from the City Council, the City and FOR will submitted a final mark-up to the consultants, based on the full range of feedback, to the consultants. The consultants returned the FINAL PLAN to the City, ready for adoption at the City Council Meeting, Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

Adoption:  May 22 at 6 pm, the City Council will meet to adopt the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan, which will then become part of the City’s code of ordinances.


Post Plan Action Steps:

  • Implementation Committee:  The FOR Natchez Steering Committee will be transformed into an “implementation committee” to assist the City in executing the plan, as per the implementation schedule contained in the plan.
  • Downtown Development Director: The number one priority in the plan is the creation of a Downtown Entity (based on the model of the national Main Street Program) to be run by a professional director.  The director needs to be qualified in organizational management, marketing, economic restructuring, historic preservation, community engagement, and downtown revitalization. These professionals are out there and Natchez would be an ideal place for one of them — with a professional salary attached to the position.  The recommended salary is $60-70,000.  The consultants are recommending that the City establish an annual budget of $120,000 for this organization. FOR Natchez will most likely consider using its 501c3 status to solicit private investments for the new Downtown Development entity.
  Here are links to articles in the Natchez Democrat reporting on our progress during this phase:  

January 2018 Historic Natchez Foundation Honors FOR Natchez’s Efforts to Save Our City

February 2018 Draft Master Plan to be Unveiled

February 2018 Downtown Master Plan Needs You

February 2018 Become Part of the Solution to Natchez Natchez’s Future

February 2018 Residents Positive/Wary About  Unveiled Master Plan

May 2018 City Council Meeting for Final Review of Draft Master Plan

May 2018 Master Plan Nearing Approval

May 2018 The AAA’s will turn Natchez around

May 2018 Aldermen to Vote Today on City Master Plan

Natchez Alderman Adopt Master Plan


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