Main Street: Downtown renewal
March 21, 2001
Meridian Main Street Manager Sharon Smith has a good grasp on what the city can become if it can find its niche. The plans she outlined during an interview with The Meridian Star are interesting and enlightening, and seem to have the potential to prompt tremendous growth.
Downtown Meridian was once a business, social and cultural hub, a vibrant collection of stores and shops and coffee houses and clubs. There was an enriching rain of energy and vitality that collected in a great barrel called entrepreneurial spirit.
With the major revitalization projects now under way and more planned there is renewed attention on what brings people downtown and what makes for successful commercial and residential development.
Downtown businessmen and women already know they have to adjust and adapt to the needs of customers if they expect loyal customers to remain so. Today, merchants who have chosen to remain downtown face special challenges and must generate special reasons for shoppers to come. Their commitment is to be applauded.
A 1998 Meridian Main Street survey identified a number of items due for consideration if downtown is to be revived. First was a functional 500-car parking garage. Second was more downtown residential spaces. Third was to restore Union Station. Smith says the fourth was "life after 5," or more nighttime activities.
People who follow city business can visit and touch the restored Union Station, a multi-modal transportation center through which more than half a million people pass each year.
Amtrak passengers, city transit and even the Silver Star limo all do business at the station.
Plans for the parking garage are nearing completion, Smith said. Some residential units are in place and others are coming soon. Work continues on new restaurants and shops. Expectations are high that the Grand Opera House renovation will be completed in 2003.
All told, Main Street's master plan envisions a combination of projects, all designed to draw people back to downtown. It is an ambitious plan, well worth pursuing.