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Meridian lands $35 million project

By Staff
MAJOR PROJECT Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith shows city council members Tuesday night plans for a $35 million retirement community in Meridian. Smith outlined details of the plan at the city council meeting. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Dec. 19, 2001
Construction could begin early next year on a $35 million retirement community in southeast Meridian a project that could create thousands of jobs and spur the local economy.
Cooper Land Development Inc. of Bella Vista, Ark., plans to build up to 3,000 single-family homes and townhomes on 1,314 acres next to Long Creek Reservoir. Cooper also plans to build an 18-hole golf course.
Deaton and city leaders unveiled plans for the retirement development at a city council meeting Tuesday night. They also briefed members of the media earlier in the day.
Big plans
The Cooper Land announcement came about a year after another major development was unveiled in Meridian the city will be home to the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center.
Mayor John Robert Smith praised Cooper Land, saying the retirement community will be a welcome addition to the city.
Cooper Land plans to build its retirement community on what is now city-owned property. The company plans to pay the city $4.2 million over 25 years as part of a lease-purchase arrangement for the land.
The property also includes the city-owned Lakeview golf course. Cooper Land plans to refurbish the golf course, making it a private, 18-hole championship course for its residents.
In return, the company plans to construct a new $2.5 million public golf course just west of Highway 45 near Bonita Lakes' upper lake.
Project requirements
Meridian will provide water and sewer to the project, the mayor said, and is currently seeking financial help from state and federal officials.
Before construction can begin, Cooper Land must have the property rezoned for the retirement community. Then, Deaton said, the company must receive approvals from state and federal agencies.
After that, he said, Cooper Land will seek approval of the project from its board of directors. He said the company could begin construction in the second quarter of 2002.
Home sales could begin as early as the third quarter.
Other projects
Cooper Land is a subsidiary of Cooper Communities Inc., which built its first retirement community in Northeast Arkansas in 1954.
The company has since built six others in Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, West Virginia and South Carolina. Each comprise almost 90,000 acres and have attracted more that 120,000 families.
Deaton said the Meridian community will be the smallest Cooper Land has built and the first inside a city. The community also will be the company's first in Mississippi.
He said the project will bring 1,000 new jobs to the area and $20 million in new property tax revenue to the city.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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