Crosstown Project Has $15 Million City "Ask"

By Bill Dries

Leaders of the Crosstown Development Project are asking the city of Memphis for $15 million toward a $175 million project.

Memphis City Council members got a look Tuesday, March 19, at the “ask” as well as the finances and goals of the project centered on the old 1.5 million square foot Sears Crosstown building.

City Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb said the administration of Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has not committed to providing the amount.

The money would be used for blight work and infrastructure including some demolition on the site.

Developers are seeking $14 million in new market tax credits and another $25 million in federal “historic” tax credits. They have raised $25 million from “philanthropists” with a sustainable debt of $86 million. A total of 600,000 square feet is committed to leases with eight tenants including Church Health Center, St. Jude ALSAC – the fundraising arm of the hospital, and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

No council votes on the funding are scheduled and the council reception was much more friendly than the one an update on the Aerotroplis concept got.

The idea of a specific area around Memphis International Airport planned for uses that center on the airport from residential to commercial to tourism to manufacturing is a long term pursuit by the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce.

The plan taking shape is still in the process of gathering public input.

But council members were more interested in developing plans for an entity to oversee a master plan described as similar to the Downtown Memphis Commission. The DMC oversees a set district with geographic borders and business owners within that district pay fees that go toward district projects.

Council member Harold Collins was particularly insistent that any aerotropolis plan mesh and not violate existing plans for redevelopment in parts of the larger area. That includes the Elvis Presley Boulevard corridor where streetscape improvements Collins had long lobbied for just began late last year at Brooks Road and Elvis Presley.

In other action, the council approved on third and final reading an ordinance that gives the police director the discretion to set conditions on parades, marches and demonstrations.

The conditions include requiring any group from outside Shelby County seeking a march permit to put up a surety bond or deposit that is half of the cost of providing police protection. It also bans those in the gathering from carrying guns under Tennessee law or wearing masks or other disguises.

The council began its consideration of the ordinance last month as a Ku Klux Klan organization announced its intention to demonstrate March 30 on the steps of the Shelby County Courthouse. The organization later filed for a permit with the city and the permit was granted.

The ordinance’s provisions for a surety bond or deposit for police services will not apply to the klan march, Collins said, on the advice of city attorneys.

The council also approved a resolution designating four on-street parking spaces for car-sharing vehicles as part of a three-year pilot project run by the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The commission is working to find a company that will operate under contract to run the business in which customers could rent the cars on a short-term basis.

The parking spots will be free of charge to that company during the pilot period.

Two of the parking places are on the north side of Gayoso Avenue in the block between South Main Street and Nov. 6 Street. The other two are on the east side of South Main Street between Huling and Talbot Streets.