MissPres News Roundup 6-24-2013

Summer is officially here – and with it the heat and humidity we in the South love (or is it loathe?) so much. Here’s what’s been going on in preservation since our last roundup.

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Some of you may have seen this in the comments to our last Roundup, but just in case you missed it, news from Corinth is that the owner of an historic gas station who began an unauthorized demolition of the structure will have to pay $6,000 in fines. The article makes it sound like city officials feared the damage not fining the owner would have on their preservation program. Sounds like they’re willing to re-enforce their commitment to protecting their historic structures and supporting the review authority of their local commission over their district.

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Another building owner is facing punishment for their treatment of a building – this time down in Natchez. I can’t remember when we last had word on Arlington – but the latest story is that Dr. Thomas Vaughn, the owner, appeared in an Environmental Court and plead not guilty to charges of overgrowth on the property. A larger trial, that appears to address all the municipal fines and violations in regard to the Arlington property, will start on July 1. Here’s hoping that the trial allows someone other than Dr. Vaughn to come in and do more stabilization on the house so that there still might be an opportunity to fully save it. We’ll watch the news next week (and after) to see what happens.

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Another long neglected building is back in the news down in Gulfport. Word is that the City wants the Library building – and plans to convert it into a community center. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as the County (current owners) transferring or selling the site to the City as FEMA, MEMA and MDAH all have a say in what happens to the building. I’m sure that our friends at MDAH are happy to hear about a plan that does NOT involve demolition of the building, but the roles of FEMA and MEMA are complicated by an agreement related to providing money for the new library. Here’s hoping that the preservation voices win out and the City gets a very cool building for a community center.

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The near completion of a theater rehabilitation Baldwyn has folks excited about the revitalization of downtown. A building that once held an opera house will be home to the local Community Theater group – and their first production will be in the 90 seat auditorium in August. Reading the article, it sounds like this project is expected to be a catalyst for other rehabs in the historic district – and folks in town are hoping that soon people will be fighting for parking spaces in downtown Baldwyn.

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It’s been a little over 4 months since a tornado hit Hattiesburg and I saw two stories related the progress made since then. One looks at the buildings at Southern Miss and how the school is dealing with the impacted buildings. They’re still waiting on the final insurance settlement, but it sounds like they have a plan. The other story is a feature on the repairs to Westminster Presbyterian Church. Hopefully, we’ll keep hearing good things are happening to the historic sites hit by the February storm.

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Heading back to Natchez, the City is looking into its 215 property holdings, which includes small right-of-way and other small utility plots, and determining which ones are used and needed by the City and which are surplus that they might be able to sell and get back on the tax rolls. The idea is that the income from sale (and future taxes) on properties the City doesn’t need will help with the ongoing maintenance of properties the City will retain ownership of. It’ll be interesting to watch this story in the long run.

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Finally, a “Statewide” story from our pals at Mississippi Main Street. Their annual awards ceremony was this past week and they honored a lot of great programs around the state. I suspect that the press releases will start to trickle down into the local papers over the course of the week, but here’s the big release Main Street posted. Congrats to all the winners!

Categories: Baldwin, Cool Old Places, Corinth, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Mississippi Landmarks, Mississippi Towns, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Natchez, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Preservation People/Events

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