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VOL. 121 | NO. 168 | Friday, August 25, 2006

Big-Ticket Projects Advance For LUCB Consideration

By Andy Meek

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TOUCHING THE SKY: The proposed 30-story, $175 million One Beale project Downtown will go back before the Land Use Control Board next month after a 30-day delay. -- Rendering Courtesy Of Carlisle Corp.

The developers of the 30-story, $175 million One Beale project have an agreement in place with an upscale but still unnamed hotel partner, which will bolster the office, condominium and residential project they're planning for Downtown Memphis.

Meanwhile, the developers who have drawn up plans to turn the historic Tennessee Brewery into a 14-story condo project Downtown have hired the Carter Malone Group to help with public relations.

Shelby County Commission member Deidre Malone started the PR firm and was introduced to the brewery developers via a mutual friend and client at Real Times Inc., the parent company of the local Tri-State Defender newspaper.

Suffice it to say these are a pair of development teams eager to "wow" a curious public into agreeing with their visions. Both of their items likely will draw a large share of the attention next month when they go before the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board.

Fodder for buzz

And both projects, naturally, have generated interest, speculation and even some anxiety because of the scope of the plans.

Memphis Heritage Inc. Executive Director June West recently received an e-mail from a former board member about the Tennessee Brewery, asking "What are we going to do about this?" The dilapidated brewery at 495 Tennessee St. was built in 1890.

At the LUCB meeting Sept. 14, developers who hail from Detroit and Nashville will ask for a zoning exemption that allows them to build their 14-story condo development on the brewery site. Restaurant and retail space is included in the plan, as is a parking garage.

Said West: "Our first concern is that we don't believe any buildings in the South Main area should be higher than Central Station."

The latter is the eight-story building at 545 S. Main St. that's used for apartments and houses an Amtrak office.

That's not to say she and other area stakeholders necessarily view the redevelopment in a negative way because of one factor. Rather, West points to the recent filing of plans to build a Hilton Garden Inn next to the historic Hotel Chisca Downtown.

Certain aspects of that plan made observers look at them and ask, "What does that mean for the Chisca?"

And something similar appears to be happening in this case.

News travels fast

A planner in the city-county Office of Planning and Development said people already had begun calling about the brewery project before public notices about the development were even sent out. One of the features generating the most interest is the height of the proposed condo project.

"The project also comes real close to lots that are in the South Bluffs, the single-family homes," said Mary Baker, deputy director of OPD. "It's just a big building that would be real close to them."

This development is the second proposed in more than a year for the Tennessee Brewery, which at one time was the largest brewery in the South. In early 2005, three development partners - Walt Henley, Albert Santi and Skip Miller - announced their plan to turn the brewery into 35 luxury condo and penthouse units.

Santi called it an "urban castle." MHI held a fund-raiser at the building on New Year's Eve, which the partners used as the occasion to unveil their vision. A few months later, the project had fizzled out.

"With that much of a retrofit and that much of an investment that's required for the property, it's going to take an economy of scale to get enough units to make the numbers work," said Andy Kitsinger, director of planning and development for the Center City Commission.

The latest proposal for the brewery appears to be following that bit of advice, he added.

The building is a slice of history as well as an architectural gem. By 1903, more than 250,000 barrels of beer were being turned out by the Tennessee Brewery each year, according to information from MHI.

In some places, the walls are up to 4 feet thick, and the building is replete with wrought iron themes.

"I think they want to keep as much of the look and feel of the building as they can," said Malone, whose office is across the street from the brewery. "We're still going through the process of taking every constituent seriously, wanting everyone to feel as comfortable as they can feel about the project."

A Beale of a deal

The other Downtown project seeking special approval because of its large scale is the One Beale project, which looks like it, too, will be on next month's LUCB agenda.

Plans for the development - which include condos, retail, office and hotel space bedecked with luxurious amenities - already went before the LUCB this month, where the discussion was slapped with a 30-day delay.

Neighbors expressed a worry over river views that might be blocked by the configuration of One Beale, so the developer, Gene Carlisle, went back to the drawing board. Meantime, an announcement could be coming soon that will unveil the hotel brand chosen to be a part of One Beale.

Carlisle's son Chance said everything, overall, appears to be still on track.

"It's a delay - it's not a nail in the coffin by any means," he said. "We're just meeting with our neighbors, and we are continuing to evolve this project to where we can get to market in a reasonable time."

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 72 352 4,385
MORTGAGES 74 402 5,260
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 224 656 9,589
BANKRUPTCIES 49 241 3,423
BUSINESS LICENSES 26 137 1,709
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 35 234 3,747
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