By Jennifer Jacob Brown / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Whether you see it as an eyesore or a piece of local history, the Meridian Hotel building is coming down to make way for something new.
The abandoned hotel building and the neighboring Montana's restaurant building on Front Street will be demolished to make way for the proposed Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center Museum, MAEC spokesperson and board member Clay Holladay confirmed Tuesday.
MAEC purchased the Montana's building for $300,000 in July 2010. The hotel building was donated to MAEC by Manny and Melanie Mitchell. Melanie Mitchell is a member of the MAEC board and is on its building committee.
The Meridian Hotel has been abandoned for decades. The Montana's building had a tenant, New Wine Ministries, which operated it as The Gathering Place until the MAEC purchased the building.
MAEC searched for a site for nine years before purchasing the Montana's building. The arts and entertainment center project is funded in part by $4 million granted by the state in 2001. MAEC board president Tommy Dulaney said at the time of the Montana's building purchase that the total price tag of the project could be somewhere around $18 million. Holladay said Tuesday that it's still too early to determine the precise cost of the project.
The project was originally planned to be on a larger scale and located at Bonita Lakes. After both Hurricane Katrina and the completion of the MSU Riley Center renovation, the board decided to construct the museum downtown instead.
Dulaney said the Bonita project would have cost more than $100 million to carry out.
Hollday said MAEC has gotten permits for demolition from the city and is now taking bids on the demolition. He said the buildings will come down "in the near future," but said he was not sure exactly how near that future is.
Holladay said construction of the museum will begin at an undetermined time depending on how long it takes to complete plans and raise funds.
Though it is still not certain exactly what will be in the museum, part of it will be the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Hall of Fame, and the MAEC hopes to include lots of interactive experiences in the museum.
Holladay said he hopes the museum will be a tourism draw for both Mississippi and Lauderdale County.
"We're now going to give one more reason to pull into Meridian, spend money, eat food, and spend the night," Holladay said at the 2010 site announcement. "We think it will add to the development of downtown, especially Front Street.
For more information on the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, visit www.msarts.org.