Long-Awaited Projects Underway

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

Several projects for downtown Meridian are finally in the construction phase after months of planning.

While the recession has made it harder for many projects to get off the ground, some businesses perform better than others during hard economic times. For instance, Rhythm and Brews plans to open its second music venue/bar on Front Street in Meridian.

"This facility will essentially be a bar on one side and a parking lot adjacent to it on the other side, where the Levine Office Building was," said Meridian senior planner, Randall Gaither.

The owners of Rhythm and Brews are no strangers to the complications of historic restoration. The original location is in downtown Tuscaloosa.

And the former Country Corner Restaurant is to be renovated under the same name at the corner of 22nd Avenue and Front Street. The project is crossing two critically run-down buildings off the city's list of about a dozen.

One of them had already collapsed, and usually once that happens, that is usually the fate of that situation.

Work on the nightclub was stalled for about three months as city planners met with the owners to finalize the historic design. But in recent weeks the construction picked back up.

One of the critical elements of a flourishing downtown is downtown living. Nearby apartments have been up and running for about a year now, but Jimmy Rowcliff said he believes there is still a demand. He plans to build more on his side of Front Street.

Rowcliff owns the entire block from Wrangler Furniture to the old Country Corner Restaurant.

"We think the market for the apartments downtown will be a good fit," said Rowcliff. "And we already have some rental properties, so we think this will fit into what we are trying to do."

Along with apartments and a restaurant, Rowcliff plans to add a sports bar to the block. He says the recession has slowed down his work, but he hopes to have it all open within two years.

"It's been pretty tough," said Rowcliff. "We're working with it the best we can though we've got the roof torn off and gotten it stabilized."

Rhythm and Brews is expected to open sometime around November or December 2009.

But as workers pull away layer after layer of damage from the old building city officials say that date may get pushed back.


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