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VOL. 117 | NO. 185 | Monday, October 13, 2003

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Hunt-Phelan Developers Seek Tax Freeze

New projects could strengthen Beale Street district


The Daily News

As blocks surrounding the future FedExForum begin to blossom, developers and business owners are expressing excitement about potential development opportunities in Downtown Memphis.

The two-block Beale Street entertainment district could reap big rewards from future development, particularly if a significant project planned for the Hunt-Phelan Home property comes to fruition.

Hunt-Phelan Inn LLC has submitted a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes application to the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. that will be discussed by the CCRFC board Tuesday. If the tax freeze is approved, the project would add commercial, residential and hotel space to the historic home at 533 Beale.

Future effects. Downtown officials already are dreaming of the effects new development on the quieter end of Beale could have on the entertainment district. With the Hunt-Phelan project to the east and the new Beale Street Landing to the west, the current two-block district could expand to seven, each filled with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops and lodging.

With the Beale Street Landing project under design, it could create two bookends for the rapidly growing Beale Street, said Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford. We already expect Beale Street to expand to the south and to the west.

Crossing Danny Thomas. Sanford said discussions are taking place about adding new entertainment venues within the Beale Street district. His hope is that a heavily trafficked Hunt-Phelan development would spruce up and extend the district even further.

It really can create a link between what were now calling the sports and entertainment district east across Danny Thomas, he said. And, in its path, it can help to raise the standard of the neighborhoods.

The development is a mixed-use hotel/residential project that will include a restaurant, bar and five bed & breakfast suites, all located inside the mansion. New construction would include a ballroom that seats 350, a day spa and commercial space.

In addition, a major portion of the project will include construction of eight buildings containing a total of 130 residential condominium units that will be sold. Each of the three-story structures will house 16 condos.

Construction of the first building should begin within the month, said Joey Hagan, principal with Architecture Inc. and architect on the Hunt-Phelan project. If all goes as planned, construction will begin on the remaining buildings in six to eight months, he said.

Renovation of the home, which received some damage from the July 22 storm, is currently under way. Work on a Southern-style restaurant, which will encompass the entire first floor, is also scheduled to begin soon.

A fresh idea. Owners of the condos will have the option to place their units in a hotel pool for any nights they will not occupy them. The concept is something Hunt-Phelan owner Bill Day believes will be well-received.

Its a concept used across the country, but its the first time in Memphis, he said. People can live there or own and maybe just use it when they visit Downtown. It would serve as a good investment.

I think this gives a great anchor to the east side of Beale.

Sanford said Hunt-Phelan is an important part of the area.

Hunt-Phelan has been sitting as an underused community asset for a long time, he said. And, as the sports and entertainment district grows, putting the Hunt-Phelan home to a higher and better use is very important.

Public welcome again. The mansion opened for public tours for a short time beginning in 1996 and was managed by Elvis Presley Enterprises. Two years ago, after the tours ended, Day sold many antiques original to the mansion at an auction.

Making the house accessible for the public has been an issue of mine for a long time, and thats what were doing now, Day said. This will be the best use of the property.

There are things in the house you can replace, but you cant ever replace the house itself.

The new buildings are not intended to match the historic mansion, but they will complement its style, Hagan said.

Constructed of red bricks made on-site between 1828 and 1832, the Hunt-Phelan home was designed by Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument and portions of the White House. Saved from destruction in the wake of urban renewal, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

The assessed value of the property is $164,560. Total cost for the redevelopment project is about $5.1 million. In a staff report, the CCRFC recommended approval of a 15-year PILOT for the development.

The project also will be discussed at next months Design Review Board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 5.


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