JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The first floor of the Meridian at Fondren could soon be home to additional apartments.
House Speaker Philip Gunn has introduced House Bill Eight, a measure to amend the lease agreement between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Meridian of Fondren LLC to allow the apartments to be built.
The Meridian is a mixed-use development on Lakeland Drive, located on property owned by UMMC.
Under terms of the existing lease agreement, the first floor of the development had to be set aside for retail and other commercial uses.
District 73 Rep. Jill Ford signed on as a co-author of the measure. She said developers are having a hard time bringing retailers to the space.
However, she said there would be no trouble leasing additional apartments, as evidenced by the Meridian’s current occupancy rate.
“There was space on the bottom floor for retail and no new retail came in,” she said. “What we’re doing is giving them the ability to put apartments on the first floor.
“I want to say the Meridian’s not at 100 percent, but their occupancy is very high,” she said.
The Meridian is a mixed-use development that includes some 220 high-end luxury apartments.
State lawmakers approved leasing property to the developers, including Stewart Speed, several years ago.
Under terms of that agreement, the Meridian would be a mixed-use development, with apartments on the upper floors and retail on the bottom.
About 10,000 square feet of space on the lower-level floor is currently unused, Ford said.
An attorney for the developers approached Ford about changing the lease agreement so the first floor could be redeveloped.
“There was hope that the first floor would be developed for retail, but that hasn’t come to pass,” said attorney Sam Kelly. “But there is a growing need for more apartments.”
If passed, HB 8 would allow an additional four apartments could be added on the first floor. It would also mandate that UMMC students, faculty and staff have the first opportunity to lease the new units before they’re made available to the public.