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Meridian council increases size of parking garage

By Staff
COMING DOWN Mayor John Robert Smith watches as a crew from Rod Cooke Construction Inc. begins demolishing the old BankPlus building on the corner of 23rd Avenue and Eighth Street. BankPlus and other buildings on the block will be razed so construction can begin on a six-floor parking garage. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
June 4, 2003
Meridian City Council members increased the size of a planned $7 million downtown parking garage after discussing the project in a private, closed meeting Tuesday.
The council voted unanimously to add 47 parking spaces and a sixth level to the garage, raising its cost by about $249,000. Two weeks earlier, the council rejected a similar plan.
Councilmen reversed themselves after talking in the closed meeting with businessman Howard Robbins and others. Robbins said later that he could use the extra parking because he plans to renovate the Threefoot Building for hotel and condominiums.
Councilmen liked what they heard.
Smith declined to discuss anything else about the closed meeting, saying "that's about as far as I can go with it."
Demolition begins
Bobby Smith, Mayor John Robert Smith and other city officials met two hours later at 23rd Avenue and Eighth Street to watch crews begin demolishing buildings at the site of the planned garage.
A crew from the Mobile, Ala.-based Rod Cooke Construction Inc. spent much of the day demolishing the old BankPlus building about a year after city leaders unveiled plans for the parking garage.
The mayor and councilmen view the garage as a key piece of downtown revitalization. Renovations are under way on the Grand Opera House and Marks-Rothenberg building, which will make up the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center.
The 447-car parking garage will serve the Riley Center and Robbins' Threefoot building project. Robbins said he decided to renovate the Threefoot when the parking garage was announced last year.
Robbins' plans
Robbins, who purchased the 15-story building in 1988, said he plans to construct hotel rooms and residential condominiums to serve the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center.
Mike Harrell of Harrell Construction Inc. will serve as general contractor of the project. Harrell is currently constructing the $2.5 million Harley Davidson store near Bonita Lakes Mall.
Even though Robbins released details about his proposed Threefoot project, he wouldn't say what he discussed with councilmen in the 45-minute closed meeting.
Councilmen officially closed the meeting to discuss negotiations regarding the location of a business or industry one of several reasons state law allows public boards to meet in private.
Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson said she was pleased with what she heard in the closed meeting: "That's what convinced us to go ahead with it. That's about all I can say."