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VOL. 116 | NO. 163 | Thursday, August 22, 2002

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CCDC leans to Prague company to develop Rhodes Jennings

Prague firm eyes redevelopment here


The Daily News

A company hailing from a city known for its stunning architecture soon might be applying its Old World charm to one of Memphis historic Downtown structures.

The century-old Rhodes Jennings building Downtown took a half step closer to being redeveloped Wednesday when the Center City Development Corp. board discussed which developer to hire for the project.

A subcommittee comprised of board members Joseph Lee, Christine Munson and John Stokes reviewed the two proposals CCDC received from bidders interested in taking on the project. It recommended hiring CGI & Partners, a Prague, Czech Republic-based company.

However, because CCDC did not reach a quorum, it was unable to vote on the issue and recessed the meeting until 11:30 a.m. today when a final vote will be taken.

At the end of the day, the committee voted unanimous approval of CGI, board member Lee said.

Both were good proposals, Munson said.

We did feel like CGIs design was exciting and innovative and a little bit different and it would keep the building in character of Downtown.

Chicago-based Neighborhood Development Corp. is the other bidder vying for the project. The company recently finished redeveloping the former Tennessee Trust Building into the Madison Hotel, another Downtown project.

The main difference in the two proposals is Neighborhood Development Corp. would like to turn the building into a hotel, while CGI proposes to turn it into a residential building with some commercial aspects, board members said.

While both companies would try to save the facade of the building because of its historical aspect, board members believed CGI was more apt to support that option.

The subcommittee recommended the board move forward quickly on a vote, because there is an immediate need to spend money to stabilize the property, which has undergone roof damage from recent rains.

The vacant property, comprised of two buildings at 66 N. Main St. and 110 Court Ave., is decaying and has had fire department fines imposed on it.

Prague-based CGI is partnering with local companies, Looney Ricks Kiss Architects and Chandler and Chandler.

William Chandler, president of Chandler and Chandler, said the company has been working with CGI for about 18 months, doing local marketing and development work.

He said the proposal for the project includes 44 residential condominium units and about 30,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and first floor mezzanine.

He said the overall budget is estimated at $20 million and the construction timeline would be about 24 months.

Chandler said he believes the Downtown Memphis market is overdue for a large mixed-use project such as this.

Its very important for Downtown Memphis, he said.

Other Memphians are anxious to see redevelopment of the building, including Shawn Cochran, operations manager of Court Squares Sleep Inn across the street from the Rhodes Jennings property.

Hed like to see progress on the building, even if it turns into another hotel, he said.

The main thing is its growth and development for Downtown. The more going on down here, the more reason for people to come Downtown.

PROPERTY SALES 81 201 16,108
MORTGAGES 40 104 10,026
BUILDING PERMITS 130 336 38,272
BANKRUPTCIES 28 56 7,528