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VOL. 118 | NO. 171 | Tuesday, September 21, 2004

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South Downtown meetings

Officials Seek Public Input on South Downtown


The Daily News

Friday held an important moment in the history of Downtown Memphis, as a concert by R&B artist Usher officially opened FedExForum for business.

But today and Wednesday represent vital dates for an area just south of the arena.

Forming a plan. The Center City Commission has coordinated a series of public meetings to formulate the South of Forum Development Plan. The series being presented at Saint Patricks Church, located adjacent to FedExForum starts today with a 2 p.m. meeting for churches and nonprofits. The session will be followed by a 3:30 p.m. meeting for developers, brokers and investors. Residents, business owners and property owners are invited to attend a meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, a meeting for government agencies and divisions runs from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. A meeting for the general public runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Talk a little, listen a lot. The meetings are a vital part of the Downtown redevelopment process for the CCC, which is stressing the importance of input from area residents and businesses.

We havent come to any conclusions yet, said Nicole Hernandez, special assistant to the president and manager of stakeholder relations for the CCC. We hope to talk a little bit and listen a lot.

They work in that district, live in that district, theyve been there and they have a greater understanding than we do of the needs of the area. We are definitely sincere in that we want to hear from them.

Existing infrastructure. Bounded by Mulberry Street on the west, Linden Avenue on the north, Danny Thomas Boulevard on the east and G.E. Patterson Avenue on the south, the area south of FedExForum comprises some 138 acres of residential, industrial and commercial property. Some existing facilities are in decent shape, but many are in need of improvement.

The majority of the area is zoned for residential use, and residential uses are encouraged for new development. Current land use in the area is only 28 percent residential; the remaining 72 percent of buildings have commercial and industrial uses.

Side effects. Redevelopment of the area south of FedExForum could benefit more than the neighborhoods involved. The South Main Arts District also could feel the effects of a successful plan.

Jay Etkin, artist and owner of Jay Etkin Gallery at 409 S. Main St., said the public meetings and redevelopment plan are good for the long-term viability of the southern part of Downtown. While the arts district is outside the area of concern, Etkin plans to attend the meetings.

But he cautioned that for South Main, which already contains businesses struggling to increase foot traffic, it could be too little, too late.

I couldnt imagine there would be anything significant happen for four or five years there, Etkin said of the arena area. For businesses to survive down here, its hard for them to look ahead a month or two, let alone four or five years.

Hernandez said some opportunities are available to make things happen quickly, especially since some parcels of land and buildings are already for sale.

We hope to see some early successes, she said. We hope to identify some things we can do quickly to turn this area around. But we know its a long-term plan. This area isnt going to be developed overnight.

Working around residents. Meanwhile, residents in the area afraid of being forced out shouldnt pack their bags just yet. Like Uptown Memphis, where some residential projects have been built on unused land, the area south of the arena offers vacant land, as well.

Were not going to go out and kick people out of their homes, Hernandez said. What we do see is there is a lot of empty land and vacant buildings that present a great opportunity for development. Much like Uptown is doing, theyre going after the vacant properties first, and there is so much opportunity. We dont even need to focus on residents that currently live there.


PROPERTY SALES 57 57 1,266
MORTGAGES 48 48 964