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City receives no proposals for Kuhn development

The city’s plans to develop the Kuhn Memorial Hospital property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard hit a roadblock Monday when it did not receive any proposals for the site.

Kuhn Memorial Hospital was demolished in April. In June, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen advertised for proposals to develop the 12.8–acre site as a multi-use residential/commercial development with recreational facilities.

During Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, City Clerk Walter Osborne said the city had received no proposals.

“Not one?” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “Did we make it clear (in the proposal) that it was free land?”

Flaggs said he wanted to re-bid the project, specifying the property was free.

“Something is better than nothing,” Flaggs said. “I’d rather see some houses than no houses. Some recreation rather than no recreation. Some retail.”

In April 2016, the city approved a resolution adopting and authorizing an urban renewal plan for the property that included finding a developer or nonprofit agency to develop it into a multipurpose residential/commercial development with recreational facilities.

When the board authorized going out for proposals, city attorney Nancy Thomas said the resolution gave potential developers “about 60 days to do their due diligence and submit back to us what they propose for the property.”

She said the proposals would be reviewed by a committee that would then make a recommendation to the board.

A city-owned building, Kuhn was funded and operated by the state of Mississippi as a charity hospital until 1989.

In 1993, the building was considered as a possible veterans home, and in 1994, it was considered for a possible 38-bed adolescent psychiatric ward, and later considered as the possible site for a 100-bed clinic and assisted living center.

In 2000, the Lassiter-Studdard Group Inc., which owned the property at the time, donated it to the Esther Stewart Buford Foundation.

Since then, the property was sold six times for taxes, and city officials tried for at least the past 10 years to get the property owner to clean and demolish or renovate the buildings on the site. The board on July 6, 2017, put the 12.8-acre property under the city’s slum clearance ordinance in a move to step up its efforts to remove the complex’s main building.

When the parties with an interest in the property failed to present plans to either raze or renovate the buildings by September, it cleared the way for the city to begin the process for demolition.

The city officially took title to the Kuhn property Nov.1, 2017, after reaching agreements with the four parties that had interests in the property.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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