City wants to tear down old building on Washington

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

[12/9/03]The site of a long-vacant downtown building may become a corridor to connect the parking garage on Walnut Street to shops on Washington Street.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Monday to withdraw the city’s request for proposals for the former Western Auto building, 1517 & 1519 Washington St.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said that although there has been some interest from the private sector to buy the property, he thinks it can be used to provide better access to parking at the former Walnut Towers building.

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“There’s a neat opportunity where that building sits,” Leyens said.

The building is across Washington Street from Fred’s Dollar Store and west of the three-story parking garage under Walnut Towers. Work is currently under way to tear down Walnut Towers to reopen the parking for public use.

There is also an alley north of the former Western Auto building leading to the alley between Washington and Walnut streets.

That building was acquired by the city about a year ago under urban renewal for $48,000. Leyens said the cost of restoring the building is about $250,000.

“I’ve restored five buildings myself and, from personal experience, I wouldn’t touch that building,” Leyens said.

The city is conducting a downtown makeover under state law that allows public purchase of property in an urban renewal zone, rehabilitation of the buildings and resale to private developers. Structures may also be kept for public use.

Without the connector route, people would walk down South Street from the Walnut parking area to Washington.

Leyens said that the city’s engineering department will look at the building and determine if city crews can remove it.

“It’s not going to take much to put it on the ground,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

The city’s $5.6 million revitalization plan is being funded out of a $17.5 million in bonds issued in November 2001.

In all, the city planned to acquire 48 properties during the next 10 years and sell them to people who pledge to improve them or set them aside for public use. Plans also call for 20 businesses to be moved.

Last week, a Warren County jury found that the city’s offer for the Rocking Horse Motors property 20 N. Washington St., was low and set its value at $400,000, nearly twice what the city offered. Officials have said they will withdraw the offer to buy the land.

In other matters the city board:

Awarded a $354,000 contract to Hemphill Construction of Florence for grit removal upgrade at the waste water treatment plant.

Approved funding for the following:

$7,526 for the Initiative Inc.

$22,950 for the Chamber of Commerce.

$40,000 for the Economic Development Foundation.

$16,500 for Vicksburg Retirement Development.

The board will meet again at 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at City Hall Annex.