Panel: Spur development with retail, street changes
ADVISORY PANEL Members of the Urban Land Institute advisory panel presented recommendations for downtown Meridian on Friday at Union Station. Panel members included, from left, Nathan Moeder, director of research at The London Group Realty Advisors Inc. of San Diego; Michael Beyard, senior
resident fellow for retail and entertainment for ULI's Washington office; Marc McConnel of Marc McConnel &Associates, PC of Roanoke, Va.; Satyendra Huja, director of strategic planning for the city of Charlottesville; Kenneth Bacchus, chief executive officer of Housing and Economic
Development Finance Corp. of Kansas City, Mo.; and Mark Albrecht, economic development
manager for the city of Akron, Ohio. Photo by Anna Wright/ The Meridian Star
June 12, 2004
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
A Target or Circuit City in the old Village Fair Mall, two-way traffic on downtown streets and a large guitar at the west end of Front Street marking the site of a Jimmie Rodgers Museum.
Those were among preliminary recommendations an advisory panel of city officials from around the United States presented to Meridian leaders Friday after four days of intensive research in downtown.
Members of the Urban Land Institute, or ULI, arrived Sunday; they toured downtown and met with business leaders. By week's end, they drafted recommendations and evaluations of the city's efforts to refurbish downtown.
The preliminary report suggested the city spark development by refurbishing streets and sidewalks, including landscaping along such downtown roads as 22nd Avenue, Front Street and Fifth Street.
The ULI visit and recommendations came at a time when work continues on downtown redevelopment including the Mississippi State University Riley Education and Performing Arts Center, the centerpiece project.
Meanwhile, Meridian continues to attract new restaurants and retail businesses while, at the same time, buildings that once housed high-profile businesses across the city remain vacant eyesores.
The ULI panel, whose visit and study is being funded through a $110,000 grant from the Riley Foundation, spent 90 minutes Friday to outline and discuss its findings with local officials at Union Station.
ULI panel members are planners, engineers, architects and others from cities that include Akron, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego. They plan to send Meridian a detailed, written report in the coming weeks.
Kenneth T. Bacchus, chief executive officer for the Housing and Economic Development Finance Corp., in Kansas City, Mo., said the African American Historic Business District is one area in downtown that needs improvements.
Bacchus said parts of Fifth Street, between 22nd and 26th avenues, are cluttered with vacant buildings, damaged streets and damaged sidewalks.
Bacchus said he believes some of the residents who own buildings in the area would re-invest in development projects if city officials would work to improve the district.