VOL. 129 | NO. 121 | Monday, June 23, 2014
SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
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Kitsinger Continues Downtown Work With The Development Studio
By Bill Dries
As an architect and planner, Andy Kitsinger worked on large projects whose scale immediately changed areas, even as they were being built.
And he’s also worked on developments and projects that are smaller – sometimes part of the ripple effect of larger projects, but no less important or influential.
After eight years in the public sector with the Downtown Memphis Commission, Kitsinger re-entered the private sector 10 months ago as the principal consultant and owner of The Development Studio.
FedExForum is one of the projects Andy Kitsinger, principal consultant of The Development Studio, served as project manager of during a career as an architect and planner.
(Daily News File Photo)
The studio works in community development, real estate development, architecture project management and urban design and planning.
And in all of those areas, the public and private sectors intersect frequently, with different teams for each project.
The Development Studio also assembles those teams.
“I was focused on really revitalizing Downtown, and the Downtown Memphis Commission’s mission is pretty narrowly focused,” Kitsinger said of his role as the DMC’s senior vice president of planning and development.
He came to what was then the Center City Commission fresh from being project manager for two of Downtown’s defining projects – FedExForum and AutoZone Park – while senior associate architect at LRK Architects.
“I practiced traditional architecture for about 25 years, and I worked for mid- to large-sized architecture firms, the last being Looney Ricks Kiss,” Kitsinger said of the two big projects. “But I’ve always had this interest in neighborhood revitalization. Midstream in my career, I went back and became a certified planner. That really got me focused on neighborhood revitalization and placemaking beyond a single structure and creating communities.”
One of Kitsinger’s first assignments at the Downtown Memphis Commission in 2005 was a logical next step from FedExForum: development of the area south of the forum – or SoFo, for short.
“We really have been excited about South Main and how the western edge of the SoFo neighborhood has really come along,” Kitsinger said. “South of the facility is a huge challenge. We’ve just got so much real estate locally that is underutilized both in Downtown and Midtown, but there is a lot more opportunity than there is market to support it.”
The Development Studio is also involved in the planning process for a new effort in The Edge, the area between the Memphis Medical Center and Downtown.
The Edge will be the focus of the next MEMfix, a series of events by the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team that examine and try out techniques for reanimating areas.
While he was at the Downtown Memphis Commission, Kitsinger played a key role in the development of the Memphis Blues Trail, as well.
“It connects the Mississippi Blues Trail up through the city and the 13-mile corridor that brands and connects a lot of the blues venues and sites that we have Downtown,” he said.
With The Development Studio, Kitsinger remains involved with that as well as the Main Street to Main Street Intermodal Connector Project, which the DMC is overseeing. Main to Main is the renovation of Main Street Memphis between Uptown and South Main as well as Broadway Avenue in West Memphis, with the Harahan Bridge boardwalk linking the two main streets.
These days, Kitsinger’s company has a broader focus and reach that extends to other cities, including Columbia, Mo., where The Development Studio is helping continue development of the college town’s plan for The District area and helping craft development guidelines for that Downtown area.
“It’s pretty broad. I’m working with private developers, also continuing to work with the DMC implementing projects and working with a few other cities,” Kitsinger said. “I work on the front end of a lot of projects doing feasibility analysis, doing feasibility studies and helping developers and clients put teams together working with other architecture firms. It’s pretty broad at this point.”
And The Development Studio is a small undertaking with groups that can vary in size from project to project.
“I’ve been partnering on a lot of projects, which is great because I can stay small and nimble and work on a lot of different things and work putting various teams together, working on larger projects with multiple players,” he said.
The economy – particularly the effects of a stubborn recession – has had a large role in the success or continuation of projects.
“There’s a lot more interest in development in general. But the multifamily sector is very strong. We’re seeing properties be able to be finance for multifamily more than anything else,” Kitsinger said, distinguishing between interest and financing. “There’s a lot of interest in hotels. Financing is a little tougher. Industrial is very strong as well. The office market, there’s still a lot of realignment and shifting going on.”