Old Merchants Company coming down for growth|[09/11/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Changes to the City Front area, which is rapidly becoming Vicksburg’s tourism haven, continued Monday with the demolition of a building to make room for more parking.

The former Merchants Company building, 1101 Mulberry St., has sat vacant next to L.D.’s Kitchen, which is under renovation, for several years.

Throughout the years, the building was used as a grocery store, meat packing operation and restaurant and bar.

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Walter Bliss, assistant director of public works for the city, said the site will be leveled by city personnel over the next few days.

It will be used for about 30 parking spaces, a sidewalk and landscaping that will further the administration’s efforts to create a tourism destination downtown.

Levee Street is home to the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals and the $2.8 million Art Park at Catfish Row. Upcoming attractions on and around Levee Street include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Interpretive Museum, to include the decommissioned vessel MV Mississippi IV; a Vicksburg Transportation Museum in the Levee Street Depot, a handicapped-accessible playground, which will be built by community members under the leadership of the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg; and a catfish restaurant at L.D.’s Kitchen.

The city purchased the old Merchants Company building as part of its urban renewal master plan created in 2002 and funded with a $17.5 million bond issue.

Another effort by city workers has been to add sidewalks and a railing to the front of the City Front floodwall, where historic murals, along with one modern mural, are painted, said Jeff Richardson, landscape architect for the city. That project began in July and is wrapping up.

Currently, parking is available along the side of the art park. Additional parking will be needed once the $120,000 community-built Playground at Catfish Row comes to fruition in April. Plans are to have community members build the playground April 2-6

“We have a lot of stuff going on down there,” Richardson said of the Levee Street area. “We’re real excited about getting on with this.”