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Parts of downtown could get face-lift once study complete

By Staff
DOWNTRODDEN AREA Clemmie Mathis, left, owner of Meridian Cab Co. on Fifth Street, talks Thursday to Joe Hagerman, a research associate with Mississippi State University's College of Architecture in the alley behind his business. Hagerman was among a group of architects that surveyed parts of downtown in conjunction with a revitalization effort of Meridian's African American Historic Business District. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Sept. 19, 2003
A plan could be in place by spring to guide revival of the African American Historic Business District in downtown Meridian.
A group of architects from Mississippi State University, working with the John C. Stennis Institute of Government, were in Meridian for the first time Thursday to survey the area which includes parts of Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Streets between 23rd and 26th Avenues.
The architects inspected properties and began to prepare suggestions on how renovations could fit in with other downtown buildings.
Sharon Smith, head of the city's Main Street division, said she hopes the area will "come alive" and once again become a vibrant part of downtown.
The business district was once a bustling area, peppered with hotels, restaurants, retail stores, a movie theater, doctor's offices and many other black-owned businesses.
But today, most of the area has deteriorated, with old, decaying buildings the norm. Some of the eyesores are little more than brick frames with grass and weeds growing in the middle.
Pharmacies and retail stores that existed three decades ago have given way to a scattering of night clubs, barber shops and all too many abandoned buildings.
The idea of improving the area, though, had to survive budget battles a year ago; last September the Meridian City Council cut thousands of dollars from proposed spending.
One of the projects that survived was a $25,000 feasibility study for revitalization of the African American Historic Business District.