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VOL. 125 | NO. 192 | Monday, October 04, 2010

Collierville Considers Land Swap for Schools

By Sarah Baker

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The town of Collierville has met with Shelby County Schools to discuss the potential relocation of Collierville Middle School with hopes of not only relocating the city’s lone university campus to downtown but also revitalizing the local economy.

The proposed “land swap” between the middle school and the town involves part of Suggs Park near the Town Square and could possibly bring the University of Memphis’ Collierville campus – known as the Carrier Center – to the current Collierville Middle School.

But Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner Jr. said there are multiple moving parts to the issue.

The middle school received federal stimulus money to rebuild the school, now at 146 College St. Upon its relocation to a new building in Suggs Park at 163 E. South St., the town of Collierville would receive the current middle school site and lease the space to the U of M.

The Carrier Center, currently located at 500 Winchester Blvd., has been on a year-to-year lease, and is running out of room. The satellite campus offers a range of classes, from freshman to doctorate level.

Dan Lattimore, dean of University College and vice provost for Extended Programs, said the U of M has wanted to have a larger presence in Collierville for a while because it had reached full capacity.

The middle school facility, which housed Collierville High School until 1995, has the potential to hold twice the amount of the university’s current site, so if and when the U of M moves into the new site, it plans to offer a number of specific degree programs.

“We’re definitely on board in terms of pursuing it,” Lattimore said.

And with the middle school’s current site more conducive to a college campus, with different buildings that students are required to walk to and from, the relocation makes sense for both parties, Joyner said.

“This would be a tremendous asset for Collierville, if it all works out,” Joyner said.

Collierville has an agreement in principle – that has not yet been activated – with the university stating its willingness to pay the lease fee, because of the $4 million to $6 million estimated improvements that are in order for the old school site.

“We’ve got to be sure that the taxpayer of the town of Collierville doesn’t come out on the short end of this, so we are very concerned about that,” Joyner said.

While the solution still remains to be resolved, the two groups decided to hold a public meeting Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. in the board chambers of Town Hall, 500 Poplar View Parkway, to address any questions or concerns from the Collierville community, and also present a conceptual idea of the project.

“We would like to hear from all of our citizens, whether they are in favor of the issue or whether they have problems,” Joyner said. “Hopefully within the next month or so, we can get a decision from the board of mayor and alderman, to either move forward with this, or to let it die.”

Many Collierville businesses are on board with the plan. Kelli Geminn, co-owner of Square Beans Coffee Co., is excited about the possibility because her business is on the west side of the Collierville square, at 193 N. Center St.

She advocates the proposal on her company’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, saying, “Send an e-mail to your Collierville Mayor and Aldermen encouraging them to sign a deal…It’s a good thing!”

Square Beans is open until 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and would consider extending its business hours on other nights of the week if the demand is there.

Michael Green, a director on the Memphis Area Association of Realtors board, agreed with Geminn for several reasons.

Green not only lives behind the middle school, but his real estate office, John Green & Co. Realtors, is located in the Collierville square and right around the corner from the current middle school. His brother, Allen Green, also served on the steering committee for Collierville’s Town Square development plan.

Michael Green said he believes the proposal could be the catalyst the downtown area needs to spark development in the area and encourage investment in Collierville.

“This fits right in line for what the downtown development plan wanted to encourage, and that is for people to invest money in the area and help revitalize downtown Collierville,” Green said. “It seems like a win-win situation, a no-brainer for the whole community.”

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