City and urban renewal agency officials are looking for proposals to redevelop public owned land in downtown Meridian.

In August, the city and Meridian’s urban renewal agency, the Meridian Development Corporation, put out a request for proposals, or RFP, for mixed-use projects on the land that “enhances the character and economic vitality of downtown Meridian” and includes a new community center, according to the request documents.

The properties in question — on Northeast Second and East Third streets, just south of East Idaho Avenue — currently hold the city’s community center, Centennial Park and a parking lot. Both the center and the park are owned by the city, and the parking lot is owned by MDC. In total the properties are 1.24 acres, which city staff estimates is worth at least $1.1 million.

The city hopes the right proposal will reinvigorate the properties and include a new community center, said Cameron Arial, director of the city’s community development department. He referred to the project as the next phase of Meridian’s revitalization of its downtown.

ENVISIONED USE

The Meridian Community Center, built in 1961, is only 4,200 square feet — “too small for our growing city,” said Steve Siddoway, director of Meridian Parks and Recreation.

“Right now it is only a place to attend a class,” he said. “We hope the new center will be much more than that.”

The city envisions the new center to be possible five times that size, at 17,000 to 22,000 square feet. It could have a seating area with coffee, room for camps and classes, and reservable space, Siddoway said.

Parks and Recreation plans to contribute up to $3.8 million for construction through impact fees, the documents stated.

Putting out a request for proposals allows interested developers to submit plans. The city had planned to start construction on a new community center in 2025. If the RFP process goes well, it will allow the city to build the center sooner than it originally anticipated.

Last year the city went through a similar process with the old city hall property.

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In August 2018, City Council and the urban renewal agency approved local businessman Joshua Evarts’ plan to build two four-story buildings across from Meridian City Hall where several buildings, including the old city hall, were located. As part of the plan the city and urban renewal agency transferred the old city hall property to Evarts for $565,000.

The city will consider compensation for the current properties in question, as well.

INTEREST

The city held a pre-proposal meeting Aug. 27 for interested developers. The meeting was attended by 26 people, some of whom were city staff, Arial said noting he was pleased with the turnout.

Proposals will be accepted until 4 p.m. Oct. 4. Afterward, some applicants will be invited to present to a review committee and then to the Meridian City Council and the MDC board. The final decision will be made by a joint group comprised of the council and the urban renewal board.

“What I can say is the city and MDC ultimately must both feel comfortable in moving forward with whatever proposal is recommended by the review committee,” said Natalie Podgorski, spokeswoman for MDC, over email. “We are interested in proposals that can bring all of the elements that are described in the RFP, including bringing more parking to downtown.”

Included in the proposal will be a conceptual plan for the community center. After a proposal is picked, the “winning team will become the design team” for the community center, Siddoway said, and will work with city staff to present a design to the public for review and feedback.

In its RFP, the city is asking that developers replace the 0.4 acres of public open space provided by Centennial Park. Siddoway said the park is “definitely an underutilized space.”

Developers can include other sites in downtown Meridian in their proposal. Arial said there are no other city-owned properties that staff are envisioning for the project.

In April the Meridian Library District announced it purchased the former AEI Systems Group building on Northeast Second Street, off East Idaho Avenue, next to the property included in the RFP. The two-story building will house the district’s technology-focused branch, unBound.

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com or follow her on Twitter @pattybowenMP.

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