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VOL. 119 | NO. 42 | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

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By Andy Meek

Victorian Village Readies for Rehab

New homes go up in historic, but neglected, neighborhood


The Daily News

New homes are becoming more common in Victorian Village, the Downtown Memphis neighborhood known for its grand, 19th-century mansions.

Last week, the Memphis Landmarks Commission approved a certificate of appropriateness for a new home to be built at 657 Jefferson Ave., one of several in the works by Design 500 Inc. The design firms creative director, Scott Blake, is also president of the Victorian Village Velocity Group, a neighborhood association thats spearheading redevelopment in the area.

Housing efforts. Landmarks chairman Andy Kitsinger said Design 500 has already renovated two homes on Jefferson Avenue and built a third near the planned new home. Kitsinger, who is also a director of planning and development with the Center City Commission, said the group has more on the way.

That push for new housing in Victorian Village is a major part of the CCCs redevelopment plan for the area. Area residents, business owners and architects from Looney Ricks Kiss crafted the plan last year.

The CCC spearheaded the plan, which calls for new commercial and residential uses in Victorian Village. It also calls for addressing crime and code enforcement issues tied to some neighborhood properties.

Push for redevelopment. Laura Morgan, also a director of planning and development with the Center City Commission, said the CCC will be heavily involved in the area in 2005 with some major announcements on the way in the next month or so.

We are working very closely with the city on some of their properties in the district to see what opportunities might be available for redevelopment, Morgan said. We all sat down and came up with a laundry list of things that immediately have to happen, and were all just kind of going through those. Its really just kind of some of the base stuff right now, and beginning discussions with some key property owners and such.

Obviously there are no funds for the city to pay for any renovations over there, but we are looking at quick fixes and long-term implementation. And there will be some things over the next month or so that would be worthy of touting.

Morgan said another recent development that has contributed to the areas redevelopment is the sale of the old BlueCross BlueShield building. Several nonprofits are moving into it that want to begin working with the CCC, she said.

Area resurgence. The surge of interest in revitalizing Victorian Village coincides with several projects under way in the nearby Medical District, including the Memphis Bioworks Foundations University of Tennessee-Baptist Research Park.

Area businesses include restaurants such as Neelys Bar-B-Que, doctors, lawyers, Goodwill Industries and government buildings such as the Juvenile Court complex on Adams Avenue. Homes in Victorian Village range from high-rise apartments to duplex, single-family and historic homes, two of which the Mallory-Neely and Woodruff-Fontaine homes operate as public museums.

Spurring interest. At the moment, the CCC is trying to clear the way for more redevelopment to occur in Victorian Village. Morgan said the groups involvement wont be as strong as it was in spearheading redevelopment along Main Street, mainly because of a lack of money, but the CCC will still play a large role.

There is some interest in some pretty significant things over there, but until we can have these discussions with the city and get them to agree to sell the properties, some of the major property owners over there do want to redo their sites, she said. But were just in the very early stages with them right now.

Nearby changes. Something else thats helping redevelopment along is a rezoning thats under way in the Medical District by the citys Division of Planning and Development.

That rezoning will help stabilize the neighborhood and also establish some guidelines for redevelopment, Kitsinger said. Weve also identified recommendations for redevelopment of individual acreage within Victorian Village and made some recommendations on infrastructure improvements like north-south streets that would help break up the blocks.

Right now, there are real long, narrow blocks that run east-west, so well be making better connections north-south, and then taking some vacant and underutilized land and creating some new residential parks and that type of thing. And well be hopefully redeveloping some of the perimeter commercial lots to have better uses.

First steps. Currently, the CCC is putting the redevelopment plan into a marketable format so it can begin promoting the area. Other individual recommendations the group is pursuing include trimming the size of Morris Park, which the plan suggests is too large for the area.

And Kitsinger said some of the city-owned land in Victorian Village includes maintenance facilities in the middle of the neighborhood that he hopes can be phased out.

Some other city properties over there are prime for redevelopment, and quite honestly, theres no sense in the city holding possession, Morgan said. But all of this is a step in the right direction. And I would say during the calendar year of 2005, there will be a much more aggressive initiative going on out there.


PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396