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VOL. 119 | NO. 20 | Monday, January 31, 2005

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By Andy Meek

New Main Revitalization Seeing Progress


The Daily News

Little by little, development in the New Main block between Union and Gayoso avenues is taking shape.

In the works. Projects under way include two restaurants planned to open in coming months, both in historic buildings on Main Street. And Nelson Inc., which is transforming the Family Dollar building at 92-96 S. Main into an upscale hotel, is in the midst of improving access to the building.

In addition, a development partnership is planning to renovate 99-105 S. Main, a project that will include commercial and residential uses. Jason Wexler, a partner in the project, said the group plans to submit a payment-in-lieu-of-tax application to the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. and seek a development loan from the Center City Development Corp. in February for the project. Pending approval, the development will include 36 residential units and between 4,500 square feet and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.

Significant area. Jay Goff, development project manager for the Center City Commission, said projects such as these prove there are still many opportunities to be found in the once derelict stretch of Main Street. The New Main redevelopment project began more than four years ago as part of a Main Street Redevelopment Plan for six blocks between Gayoso and Adams Avenues.

We think New Main is a very significant area to get redeveloped, Goff said. Weve placed a lot of emphasis extra emphasis on facilitating and promoting development on that particular block, and weve acquired properties on that block.

Even though there is a lot of new development going on there right now, weve done a good job of facilitating and trying to fill in the gap to make things happen. But at the same time, theres still some work to be done. You can imagine what it looked like two years ago there was nothing going on.

Dining, living options. New developments will include everything from residential units to restaurants.

Wangs China Bistro is the first restaurant tenant on New Main and will occupy the ground floor of the Cornerstone Apartments at 113 S. Main, another project Wexler was involved with. Construction on the restaurant began this week.

Hopefully by April 1, we should have a running restaurant there, Wexler said.

The Cornerstone Apartments are the first phase of the five-building Main Street Flats project. Wexler said residential units in the development have been fully leased since the building opened last summer.

He added that construction at 99-105 S. Main should begin in February or March. Coleman Cokers Building Studio is designing the project, and Jameson Gibson is the contractor. The project is scheduled to go before the CCCs Design Review Board Feb. 2.

Everything growing. Like Goff, Wexler sees considerable potential in the New Main block. His company, Greenhat Partners, is particularly focused on the development of historic properties.

We still think that area is a great location, right in the heart of Downtown, with everything growing around it office, entertainment and residential, Wexler said. We think its a terrific long-term spot, which is why we continue to invest and build in this area.

More coming. Another New Main restaurant is set to open in coming months.

Developer Deven Patel, who owns a Southaven hotel and a construction company, is planning a $700,000 renovation of 59 S. Main that will turn the 14,000-square-foot historic building there into a three-story restaurant, Mexican Mango. Patel hopes to have the restaurant open by spring, in time for Cinco de Mayo.

I have a hotel in Southaven I built couple of years ago, and Ive also started a construction company, but this basically is going to be my first big project like this, Patel said. There will probably be four to five months of construction before its opened.

I bought this building about five years ago, just thinking it was going to do a lot better since Downtown was getting cleaned up and a lot of new businesses were being attracted to Downtown. So I made an investment down there five years ago, and hopefully it will pay off.

Currently, Patel is finalizing plans and preparing to seek approval for a tax freeze on the building from the CCRFC.

Complicated deals. Other development is occurring on New Main. At a CCDC meeting last week, the groups Main Street subcommittee discussed improving guest access to the former Family Dollar store building that is slated to become a boutique hotel. John Elkington, a CCDC board member, said the group had been working on plans for the hotel for several months but that accessibility issues need to be addressed.

These are all complicated deals, with no low-hanging fruit, said CCC president Jeff Sanford.

But as the building is arranged now, he said, guests to a future hotel would need to have their luggage FedExed ahead of them.

Moving forward. Besides these projects, redevelopment of several other New Main properties is either under way or set to begin soon. Construction should begin in April on The Vue at South Main, a $40 million mixed-use tower that will include 10,000 square feet of retail space and 286 apartments. The 28-story structure also will include a 441-space parking garage, according to the CCC.

Construction also is moving forward on a $4 million renovation of 85-95 S. Main, a project that will include 15 condos, two penthouse units and 7,200 square feet of commercial space. Completion is expected in May.


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