Beginning renewal plan good move for city, but there’s still much to do

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, April 9, 2016

In about one week, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is expected to take a major step forward regarding the Kuhn Hospital property.

April 18, the board is expected to approve a resolution implementing its urban renewal plan for the property — an ambitious 10-year plan to raze the buildings on the property, clear it and turn it over to a private developer or non-profit company to build a residential/commercial development with recreation facilities.

The board deserves a lot of credit for its efforts to remove the buildings and approve a plan that will in time transform an eyesore into what could be a model neighborhood where families can experience the American dream of owning a home and have access to playgrounds and other recreation facilities. But the plan still faces an uphill climb with a number of obstacles in the way.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

As City Attorney Nancy Thomas said in February when the board accepted the 33-page plan, “We’ve got a lot of steps (still) to go through.”

The first is acquiring the property. If the city can’t get the land, the plan goes down the tubes and we’re still stuck with an eyesore. That means hiring an appraiser to determine the property’s true value and court costs to go through eminent domain to get the land and finding the money to do it. As Mayor George Flaggs Jr. pointed out Friday at a public hearing on the urban renewal plan, money to buy land or have a court hearing aren’t in the 2016 budget.

The city also has to find about $850,000 to take the buildings down and clear the site. The board wants to apply for a $250,000 low-interest Brownfield CAP loan, but must own the property to eligible to apply. It is also seeking a federal Brownfield grant to help defray the costs. Land ownership isn’t needed for the grant, but grants are highly competitive, and the city could end up with nothing.

Although the fight to demolish it has been going on for more than 10 years, Kuhn has been a thorn in the city’s side since the state closed it as a charity hospital in 1989.

“The state played with it, private owners played with it, the city played with it. Everybody’s played with it, now it’s an eyesore to the community,” Flaggs said. “We’ve ignored it and now it’s time to do something about it.”

Let’s hope the board can find the money to raze the buildings and transform the property into something positive for the city. And it doesn’t wait another 10 years before starting.