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VOL. 117 | NO. 191 | Friday, October 24, 2003

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Meet city council Nov

Homes Could Replace Vacant Warehouse

Use of alley concerns residents in Midtown neighborhood


The Daily News

Residents of the Cooper-Young neighborhood welcome the demolition of a 74,000-square-foot vacant warehouse that will be replaced with new homes, but some are wary about the future of an alley that runs between the property and the rear of existing homes.

SR Consulting LLC first wants to raze the warehouse originally built for Ronco Spaghetti at 800 S. Barksdale St. in the 1950s then build 38 single-family residential, bungalow-style homes and eight townhouses on 36 lots.

A critical part of the development calls for use of an existing alley for rear-access driveways.

Off limits. Residents surrounding the property, particularly those whose lots back up to Evelyn Avenue, hope to reach an agreement with the city that a greenscape area they created and have maintained for 20 years along the 50-yard alley be left alone.

Angela Strain, executive director of the Cooper Young Community Association, calls the subject a quality-of-life issue.

Developer Bernard Cowles has agreed to pave the alley and give it to the city, Strain said.

We want to make sure that the city is sensitive to what the existing neighbors have done and what their personal loss is going to be if they go remove those trees, she said. The prospect of losing 100-year-old trees in Midtown is not well-received.

A warehouse next to the alley has been empty for about a year, since its previous occupant, Southwestern Liquor, relocated to Bartlett.

Site problems. Residents of the neighborhood also have expressed concern over the need for city-funded drainage improvements in the alley a problem Strain said neighbors are handling themselves.

Strain said Memphis City Council member Janet Hooks has said she wants to meet with residents to discuss the problems, and the city-county Office of Planning and Development has promised the association an engineering study will be conducted on the alley.

The neighborhood is thrilled to see an abandoned industrial site become housing we just want it done sensibly and in such a way that the people already living in the neighborhood are not adversely impacted, Strain said.

Fence lines. OPD deputy director Mary Baker said officials first must determine whether the existing fence prevents use of the alley as a 25-foot driveway, then seek a solution to address the needs of all parties.

Any drainage problems will be directed to city engineers, she said.

Its a difficult and unfortunate situation because its an alley thats not been in use for a number of years, Baker said. I dont know if were going to be able to solve this to everyones liking, but were going to try to reach some kind of consensus with the neighborhood before it goes to Council.

Cowles said Cooper-Young representatives told him they were excited at the prospect of single-family homes instead of the 18-wheelers seen idling on the property at all times of the day.

Cowles said estimated cost of the homes will range from $215,000 to $240,000. They should be ready for sale next spring, with warehouse demolition scheduled to start in December.

Urban challenges. Baker said the trend of developing infill homes with a new urbanist approach similar to the homes in Mud Islands Harbor Town often depends on use of alleys to provide rear-access driveways.

But, urban development also often comes with challenges, such as improving alleys, she said.

I could multiply that development times every neighborhood in the city, she said. Every time we do one of these, we have a problem like this one.

A seat at the table. Emily Bishop, who has lived on Evelyn directly across from the development since 1988, said residents have experienced circumstances in which compromises were reached between homeowners and developers, but ignored after the developers gained city approval for projects.

She fears solutions presented for the alley could have a similar outcome.

Thats a huge concern, Bishop said. We want to be involved citizens and part of the solution, but theres no system in place.

She said area residents, like city officials, support new homes in the neighborhood, but she believes existing residents deserve input in the new development.

If the city could give us a process that would include the neighborhood early on in the process a seat at the table that could be the best thing to come out of these developments, she said.


PROPERTY SALES 32 252 16,449
MORTGAGES 35 120 10,207
BUILDING PERMITS 215 1,041 39,585
BANKRUPTCIES 52 188 7,785