OUR VIEW: County purchase of mall puzzling, but readers have worthy ideas

Bill Graham / The Meridian Star

The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors announced Monday the county intended to purchase the vacant Village Fair Mall for $1.25 million. The shopping center was known through most of its years as Village Fair Mall, but was later rebranded and operated for a short time as Value Fair Mall.

The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors’ plan, announced Monday, to purchase the old Village Fair Mall property for $1.25 million solves part of the puzzle to create an attractive gateway to Meridian.

The problem is there are so many missing pieces to the puzzle we don’t know yet whether it is a favorable deal for county taxpayers. We reserve judgment.

The many questions include:

Does the county plan to build a government complex there?

If it does, what becomes of the present courthouse and what will the exodus of workers from downtown mean to the city?

Does the property purchase mean courthouse workers and visitors will remain in horrid conditions for years to come while the new complex is being built?

Does the county plan to turn the old mall site into public recreation land?

If it does and the county eventually purchases the old federal building to use as courthouse space, how much prime real estate can the county afford to hold? The old courthouse, the federal building, the county annex, the jail, the 39-acre mall site and the Sweet Gum Bottom Road property are just a few that come to mind that are already off or heading off the tax rolls.

We hope the supervisors have the rest of the pieces of this puzzle figured out because continued purchases are getting expensive and there’s still no solution to what we consider their top priority – getting courthouse workers and visitors out of the unsafe conditions in the current building.

We acknowledge the Village Fair Mall site is highly important for county residents, too.

Reporter Whitney Downard’s report on the Village Fair Mall was The Meridian Star's most read news report of the week, and one that held reader interest and had them talking. More than 170 comments were left on our Facebook page, suggesting possibilities for the old mall site, and more than 200 people participated in an accompanying readers poll.

We are encouraged by their overwhelmingly positive responses and creative suggestions. We recommend the supervisors take a look at these citizens’ ideas and tap into their interest.

We share a sampling of recommendations:

Linda Clayton: Small shops, beautiful welcoming park, move Denzel Carousal there and welcome people to Meridian!

Brandi Semmes McDonald: … If there’s an eye catching draw from the interstate (IMAX, Top Golf, Aquarium even) the city is able to capitalize on those visitors instead of losing them to Jackson or Tuscaloosa. We have made downtown beautiful, but you wouldn’t know that from the off ramp.

Jon Cooper: … Great place for a River Walk! Small shops, redirect the water or do both? Create a view out back? But have a float go back and forth for people ride or walk up and down the store front…

Stacey Carr Davis: Amphitheater with summer theater workshops for kids. A super nice playground. Picnic area. Dog park. The possibilities are endless. …

Michelle Griffith Joyner: … It would be an excellent place for a movie theater (maybe even an IMAX?) with stadium seating, a trampoline park, bowling…

Logan Davis: … Hopeful to see something anchored by a nice movie theatre or outdoor amphitheater.

Jodi Jones: I would like to see it become a Medical Marijuana/Compassionate Care Clinic and Dispensary when the bill becomes law. That would be an excellent place for it, even if it is a little big. There is plenty of room for various stores and for clinicians and doctors to have offices, and then for others to sell things as well.

Jim Broderick: I would love to put a entertainment center. Bowling, movie theater etc. something that families can do together.

Donna Sprabery: A vocational and or fine arts charter school. It has a cafeteria, courtyard around the old fountain, the old cinema has a stage if I remember correctly, and there’s plenty of space for classrooms and room to expand and add on more.

Lindsey Thomas Hall: Indoor/Outdoor Driving Range, Putt-Putt, Arcade, Waterslide, etc...Would make a fortune on State Games visitors alone!

David Batchelor Jr.: An outlet mall full of shops like in Foley, Alabama.

Tracie Brantley: We can duplicate cool streets just like the Bishop Arts District in Dallas. No reason we can't or shouldn't. Think big. It's pretty simple. And super smart for us all.

Alicia Hodges: High Heaven Trampoline Park! That would bring a lot of money and bring out not only people in Meridian but also surrounding areas! It’ll be busy all year around for children’s birthday party’s and that indoor theme park is suitable for all ages! …

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