During his regular news conference Wednesday, Meridian's mayor answered questions about what is expected to happen in the city on the heels of plans to restore the Threefoot Building and construction of a new 450-space parking garage.
The mayor said it all started with the construction of Union Station. "It has leveraged now over $65 million in additional public and private sector investment in downtown Meridian," Smith said.
The mayor said it is imperative that a master plan be created and put in place.
"Development in downtown is now coming so rapidly we're almost having to put some breaks on to say, let's get the master plan well defined before moving forward," said Smith.
He said the parking garage is a key element in downtown's future.
"We know that the parking garage is not going to pay for itself and that's been clear from the beginning. The revenue from the parking spaces isn't going to pay for the cost of retirement of the debt to build the parking garage," the mayor said. "What we know is that if we don't invest that money in the parking garage, we don't get the Marks Opera House project and that does provide revenue back to the city."
Smith pointed out that almost every city now offers free sites with water and sewer to industrial prospects but Meridian is now able to offer a quality of life other cities cannot match.
"I believe in the next five years the community is going to be transformed," Smith said. "I think you're going to see a downtown with more life in it than we have had in the last 50 to 100 years."
The mayor said what is being done now will carry the community forward for at least the next generation, if not two generations.
As the demolition continues to take place on 8th Street, to make way for the new parking garage, old buildings like the former Royal Theatre and former Jack's Sandwich Shop still hold fond memories for many.
Lloyd Royal, Sr., along with his sons, owned the theatre that closed in mid-December 1981.
Even though Monte Royal operates a much larger theatre at the mall, he said the changes in downtown were greatly needed.