Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Historic Preservation

Committee Member

Dr. Barry L. Stiefel, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Carter L. Hudgins

Committee Member

Amalia Leifeste

Abstract

Meridian, Mississippi, is a poster child for the Post-War Era decline of America's downtowns. The center city has been in steady decline since the rise of automobile culture and the opening of Meridian’s first suburban mall in the 1970s. This study analyzes how a historic preservation ethic may better inform the economic development of a downtown with an emphasis on establishing best practices for other small American cities. In focusing on a small, southern city, this paper fortifies a weak area in the study of preservation best practices related to downtown revitalization, which has focused on larger cities outside the Mid-South region. It examines the preservation policies within Meridian's 2004 Downtown Redevelopment Plan, 2009 Comprehensive Plan, and other official city planning documents. It gauges the importance placed on preservation in city planning, as well as to what degree preservation policies are actually carried out. Meridian's revitalization efforts focus on large development projects devoted to entertainment and tourism: the restoration of the Grand Opera House, the upcoming redevelopment of an abandoned Art Deco office building into a hotel, and the construction of the MAEE, slated to open in 2017. This study examines the current success of these and other projects and gauges how successfully they encourage sustainable development of the downtown core. Specifically, the study will suggest how historic preservation, incremental development, and diverse services and functions can improve downtown revitalization efforts in Meridian and comparable cities.

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