In 1994, Meridian was the state's 10th-largest city, with just 15,671 residents. Boise, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Nampa were the four most populous places.
Then a Treasure Valley boom changed those numbers. By 2004, Meridian had jumped to No. 5 and Nampa to No. 2, making the Treasure Valley home to three of the state's five largest cities.
When the U.S. Census numbers come out in May, Meridian is expected to surpass Nampa, with a population of just more than 85,000 people. Nampa is expected to be No. 3.
For the first time in Idaho history, its three largest cities are nearly contiguous. Boise and Meridian have grown together almost seamlessly, and less than a couple of miles separate the city limits of Meridian and Nampa.
With the recession over, the boom in Meridian has resumed. It accounted for 44 percent of all the building permits issued in Ada County in 2013 - more than in Boise and Nampa combined.
Meridian's rapid rise means it must address issues "like how we meet our transportation needs, what our approach to economic development should be, what we need to be doing to keep our streets safe from drugs and gangs, and how we need to work together to ensure we all have access to the water we need and expect," Mayor Tammy de Weerd said.
With more building and people, Meridian is becoming a "destination" for businesses and homeowners, de Weerd said.
'THE BULL'S EYE'
The concentration of more than 600,000 people in the Treasure Valley caught the eye of CenterCal Properties, which decided to build a $300 million, 80-acre retail and entertainment center in Meridian. The Village at Meridian opened six months ago.
The Village is situated near the geographic and population centers of the Treasure Valley and built at the state's busiest intersection, project manager Hugh Crawford.
"We are in the bull's eye of that," said Crawford. "We opened at about 30 percent occupied. Now we are pushing over 70 percent."
More buildings are under construction, and Crawford expects to announce even more tenants in the coming weeks.
"We are extremely pleased. Not only Meridian, but the entire metro area has embraced us," he said.
MORE PEOPLE, MORE HOUSES
In the past 10 years, Meridian has issued twice as many new-home permits as Boise and more than all of Canyon County.
Meridian issued a record-setting 3,314 permits in 2005. By 2010, after the recession had taken hold, that number had plummeted to 506, which was still more than any other Ada County city and all of Canyon County that year.
Meridian bounced back more quickly than its neighbors. By 2013 its housing permits increased to 1,292, outpacing Boise and Nampa, which issued 727 and 402 permits in 2013, respectively.
A number of commercial and residential projects were in the works when the recession hit, de Weerd said. Some were able to start construction during the recession, while others held back until the economy improved.
The combined population of Ada and Canyon counties is 615,335 - 38 percent of Idaho's 1.6 million residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers released this year.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell