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VOL. 117 | NO. 40 | Wednesday, February 26, 2003

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S. Main buildings fate hangs on Landmarks vote

S. Main buildings fate hangs on Landmarks vote


The Daily News

After failing last month to gain Memphis Landmarks Commission approval to demolish a South Main Street building, the Center City Commission and the buildings owners will make their case before the commission once again at its 4:30 p.m. meeting today.

This time, they are requesting a determination of economic hardship for the unoccupied Jeans Glory building at 83 S. Main St., which, if granted, would allow demolition to proceed.

The economic hardship determination is granted to buildings deemed not economically feasible to rehabilitate, said Landmarks manager Nancy Jane Baker.

When (the buildings owners) started renting and then bought the building, it was in fairly good shape, Baker said.

However, a 1997 fire two storefronts away left the building with smoke and water damage. In a letter to the commission, owner Won Chun stated that costs to repair the damage, coupled with general renovation costs to ready the structure for commercial and/or residential tenants, would prove economically unfeasible and would not provide a sufficiently timely return on investment.

If the commission grants the request for economic hardship, the CCC has offered to purchase the building for $117,600. As it is the only offer Chun and his wife have received, the owner stated they are eager to sell.

Upon CCC acquisition, the property would become part of a larger redevelopment project already underway by developer Bob Williams in the area known as the Main Street Demonstration Block.

There will be new construction on that site if its granted that we can tear (the building) down, said CCC vice president of planning and development Myron Hughes.

If its not granted, then basically, we would have to try to figure out a way to help the owner or whoever ends up purchasing the building to renovate it.

Another option if todays request is not granted is to take the matter to the Memphis City Council, which could override the Landmarks Commissions decisions and grant a demolition permit. The CCC, which has supported the owners through the government process thus far, has not discussed whether it would continue its involvement to that point, Hughes said.

Were hoping that this application (today) will stand on its own merit and move forward, he said. Were not even thinking about them saying no at this point. Were hoping that we can move forward with this and that it will be a good project for the community.

Baker said the commissioners decision is uncertain at this point.

A number of the commissioners understand the fact that this is a viable building, and weve saved a lot worse buildings down on South Main, she said of the Jeans Glory building, which features three arched windows with Victorian Italianate hoods that are original to the late 19th-century structure.

Some of the commissioners understand what the Center City Commission is trying to do, but still dont see where we should have to tear down buildings to do that, and other commissioners think that this is a viable building to be torn down.

The issue is going to come down to the Center City redevelopment block, and it depends on where (the commissioners) fall.

Hughes said the Landmarks Commissions decision ultimately will not impede redevelopment of the historic block.

It is not going to slow down the momentum that we currently have for the demonstration block, he said. And we would do all that we can to make sure that building is renovated.

This is one more step that were trying to take in order to bring this particular area back to life.

Also at todays meeting, the commission will hear a request to build a new home in the Evergreen Historic Conservation District.

Owners of the property at 273 N. Avalon St. want to build on the vacant lot, which the applicants have owned for a number of years and which is situated beside an existing historic home. If the application is approved and a home is built on the site, only two tracts of land remain open for new construction in the district.

PROPERTY SALES 0 210 10,146
MORTGAGES 0 214 11,160
BANKRUPTCIES 0 271 6,490