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Downtown post office to be given to city

[11/10/01]The City of Vicksburg will own an entire city block downtown after federal officials hand over a million dollar building at no cost.

Mayor Laurence Leyens announced Friday that the federal building that houses the downtown U.S. Post Office and the federal courthouse will be donated to the city within two years. The building is directly east of City Hall, at 820 Crawford St., and is the only building in that block not currently owned by the city.

“We would love to consolidate all of city government to this one block,” Leyens said.

In addition to City Hall at Crawford and Walnut streets, the city owns the former Neil Building, now called City Hall Annex, at 1413 Walnut St., and the old Vicksburg Public Library building, now the home of the city’s planning department, at 819 South St.

While exact plans for the building have not been set, Leyens said he hopes to bring city offices currently spread out across the town into the post office building and sell the surplus property. He said that the post office will remain on the first floor and pay rent to the city.

“We definitely want to keep the downtown post office open forever,” Leyens said.

The five-story structure was built in 1935 to replace the old post office building built in 1894. The older building, across Walnut Street from City Hall, is now home to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Commission.

No figure was available for the value of the building, but Leyens, whose background includes real estate development and restoration of historic structures, said it could be worth $3 million to $5 million.

Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Historic Preservation Society, said that there are really no other buildings in Vicksburg with which to compare it regarding cost.

“There is some really great detail work in the building,” Bell said and added that she is pleased that the city will be getting the structure. “The city has been an excellent custodian of their historic buildings. For us, this is great.”

Other than moving some city departments into the building, Leyens said the city will consider offering the top floor, which is currently vacant, to Alcorn State University or Hinds Community College for additional academic programs. He also said the city will consider offering the courtroom to Warren County.

The county is currently negotiating the purchase of the building formerly occupied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Jackson and Farmer streets. The building is needed to replace the Justice Court Building which supervisors said is too small.

Leyens also suggested that other county offices could be moved to the post office building. The building has about 70,000 square feet of space.

“We’d like to see the county and city work more closely together,” Leyens said.

The building is being offered to the city because plans are in the works to move the federal court to Natchez. The court is expected to move in January 2004.