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City seeking federal assistance for Threefoot

MERIDIAN — Harsh economic times have stymied efforts to restore Meridian’s Threefoot Building, a 16-story art deco structure now listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.

Built by a prominent family in the 1920s, the building is one of only three art deco skyscrapers in Mississippi.

Mayor Cheri Barry and officials with the state Department of Archives and History are seeking $150,000 in grants to stabilize the building until officials can reach a renovation deal with a private developer.

Hank Holmes, director of the archives agency, said he’s planning to examine the building later this month to gauge its condition after years of decline.

“I understand it’s not in very good condition,” Holmes said. “There are really no available grant programs now, but there may be some emergency stabilization money through the state Department of Archives and History.”

The city owns the building, once used for office space but vacant for years. The trust submitted Threefoot Building for the national endangered list released in May. It’s located near the historic Marks-Rothenberg Building, now known as the Mississippi State University Riley Center, and an opera house.

For now, Barry said Threefoot Building is a casualty of the national economic downturn. She said it’s a $60-million to $70-million project to restore the building because “it’s in deplorable condition.”

Barry said city officials had been in negotiations with HRI Properties, the New Orleans-based company responsible for the restored King Edward hotel in Jackson, to transform the building into a hotel.

Barry said the city’s talks with the company ended when local leaders decided against pursuing a $16-million revenue bond.

HRI President Tom Leonhard said his company had signed a contract with the city, but he understood the reason for the pullout earlier this year. Leonhard said his company’s urban renewal projects require a public-private partnership and often a financial commitment from cities.

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