Meridian Star

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December 19, 2012

Downtown development plans unveiled

MERIDIAN —     Historic downtown Meridian will get a development shot in the arm as plans are moving forward to renovate an old building into apartments for young professionals.

    Chartre Companies Ltd. is planning to convert the old BellSouth building at 701 23rd Ave. into a 26-unit apartment building.

    Clarence Chapman, president of Chartre, told the Meridian City Council on Tuesday that this is the first phase of the project, which will provide market rate apartments. He said there will be one-bedroom efficiencies, two-bedroom units and larger one-bedroom units. The exterior of the building will get balconies and more windows in some places.

    "We were looking at several buildings in the downtown area," Chapman said. "We studied it for four or five months."

    They looked at some other prospective sites, but the numbers weren't right for bringing those properties up to city code at a reasonable price, Chapman said.

    "This structure is cleaner, simpler and it's more centrally located in downtown and it's a little less square footage," Chapman said.

    The renovation is likely to cost approximately $4.5 million, he said. An economic model predicts that there will be 10 to 15 permanent jobs created per million dollars spent, Chapman said.

    The building is structurally sound, Chapman noted and was built around the turn of the the 20th Century.

    "It was originally built by the Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph Service, the old Cumberland Overland Stage Company so we're naming it Cumberland Terrace," Chapman said.

    Chapman, a Meridian native who now lives in Oxford, told the City Council that if all goes according to plan, renovations could start as early as March, 2013 and will take about five months.

    Mayor Cheri Barry, who was unable to attend Tuesday's meeting, sent a letter of support, saying that Chartre has a "sterling record of residential development."

    "What started months ago in Meridian as a plan for a single development in our Highland Park/Wechsler neighborhood has grown into a comprehensive medical corridor blueprint that will create our health care industry zone," Barry wrote.

    The City Council approved two resolutions with regard to the project, designating 35 parking spaces in the city's parking garage for the proposed apartment building and approving a resolution of intent to grant a tax exemption for improvements or renovations to the property, except for school taxes, for 10 years.

    In the wake of a recent increase in crime in Meridian, the Council approved a request from Barry to look for more funds to use for crime reduction and law enforcement.

    The Council authorized the city's administration to identify ways to amend the budget by $100,000 to beef up law enforcement.

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