OUR OPINION: Trace Inn demo eyes fall conclusion

By NEMS Daily Journal

An incident of household garbage being thrown away on the derelict site of the former Natchez Trace Inn on West Main Street in Tupelo is symptomatic of what happens to commercial and/or residential properties left by circumstance to rot and ruin.
City officials found out whose garbage was dumped on the land occupied by the decaying buildings of the former motel and convention center, which the city now owns and plans to demolish, because the trash contained unopened mail, bank statements and empty prescription bottles. The person identified by the debris says the garbage was stolen from her and left by the thieves.
Demolition will take care of the garbage problem, but the whole tract could become more problematic because it is a visible invitation to illicit activity.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and City Planning Director BJ Teal both said Thursday that demolition will proceed when a final legal hurdle is cleared.
Attorney John Hill, one of the city’s attorneys in the Mitchell, McNutt law firm, said Thursday the legal issue involves one person who at one time was an owner of record in the property, which went through a complicated series of transfers, tax liens and other entanglements before giving up the ghost as an operating business using one building.
Hill said if all the pieces fall into place, the legal solution could be cleared by mid-fall this year, and the city then could move ahead clearing the property, which will be paid for with city funds.
Teal said she hasn’t been told of definite plans for the tract once it is cleaned up, but she said it would be attractive as a marketable property to sell back into the private sector on the tax rolls.
The Trace Inn with its restaurant and the convention center building was in its heyday a popular overnight destination, attracted a strong dining clientele and hosted major meetings like the annual banquet of the Community Development Foundation, which often included major development and civic announcements.
The property is on the west side the Natchez Trace Parkway, just west of the Trace Bridge crossing West Main Street. Several businesses once operated in close proximity, but most now have closed.
The property’s decline makes the case for the city’s ongoing effort to tighten code enforcement related to decaying property, either to gain improvements by private owners or demolition for redevelopment.
Some property developers have said the site, in the right hands, could be developed and spin success off its proximity to Ballard Park, the city’s chief competitive sports facility.
Sooner would be best.