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From: "Jim Dent" james DOT dent AT itochu DOT com
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 01:34:42 -0400
Subject: Vicksburg, MS
"depot400.jpg" - image/jpeg, 13750 bytes, 400x322 (13750b)

From the Vicksburg Post...

Vicksburg to buy Levee Street Depot for development

By Mark J. Armstrong
Staff Writer

[10/02/01]The Levee Street Depot became the first named target in a proposed
downtown makeover Monday when Vicksburg officials announced plans to buy the
95-year-old building for a waterfront development project.

City board members also set a public hearing for 10 a.m., Oct. 25 at City
Hall Annex about the old, federally funded Urban Renewal plan from the
1970s. It will be the first chance the public has had to comment on the
planned changes.

"We are making that (depot) part of our strategic plan," Mayor Laurence
Leyens said. "We believe it is an important piece of property in our
waterfront development."

Under the plan, the city would be able to acquire the property without using
the power of eminent domain. Leyens said the city would then seek federal
money to renovate the building.

Possible uses include a river-rail museum or a visitor center, but no use
has been decided.

The depot was a key freight and passenger facility on north-south lines at
City Front. In 1931, much business moved to the Holly Street Depot, which
was just east of the Cherry Street viaduct until being torn down. The
downtown depot was used by Illinois Central Railroad for offices until 1974.

Since then, it has had many owners and various businesses including a
restaurant and hair salon, but has been vacant for several years. The most
recent attempt to acquire and renovate the building has been by the Museum
and Marketplace Committee for an African-American museum.

The three-story, red-brick building is owned by The Depot Partnership of
Jackson and is valued by the Warren County Tax Assessor's Office at $304,290
for property tax purposes.

The partnership consists of three doctors from Jackson, Dr.
Karl Hatten, Dr. Sam White and Dr. John Bower. Leyens said the owners are
being represented by James Hobson of Varner Realty and that the building
would be appraised and purchased at the value.

Funds to buy it are to come from a city-funded redevelopment plan, part of
an $18 million bond issue proposed last week.

Urban Renewal was a federal program in which many communities, including
Vicksburg, participated in the 1970s. Here, Washington Street was bricked,
the two parking garages since sold to Harrah's were built and several other
projects were completed. The federal Urban Renewal program no longer exists.

"They're totally different programs with totally different objectives,"
Leyens said.

Because there is no statue that allows the city to terminate the old plan,
City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the plan would have to be modified so it
will not affect the new plan.

"We're going to modify it basically out of existence," Thomas said.

In order to fund its plan, the city board will have to approve the 10-year
general obligation bonds. The city is in a required 30-day waiting period
until Oct. 23 before the money can be borrowed. A petition signed by 1,500
registered city voters would result in a vote, but voters have not
petitioned for a public vote on any bond issue here in 50 years.


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