Thursday, May 2, 2002, Vol. 116, No. 86

CCDC approves funds to buy options on Main Street property CCDC gives green light to Main Street renovation funds By SUE PEASE The Daily News The Center City Development Corp. approved a request for financial assistance Tuesday, which board members think will accelerate renovation of the Main Street Development Block. The board approved $100,000 to be used for buying options on 15 properties in one block of Main Street, which many people consider a neglected area. Board member John Elkington, also the chair of the Main Street Demonstration Block subcommittee, called the block between Gayoso and Union avenues "decimated," and said the committee, which had worked for nearly a year in forming a plan for the block, is ready for action. "Weve been working for nine months to come up with a plan for the demonstration block. We are at a point to take concrete action," Elkington said. With the approval, the Center City Commission staff plans on sending the purchase option agreements today to property owners who have two weeks to decide if they agree to the sale options. While there are 15 parcels involved, there are fewer than 15 owners, because some own multiple parcels, said Jeff Sanford, CCC president. The purpose of the purchase options would be to attract developers to the area, who would want to purchase and develop the properties via request for proposals. In this manner, developers would be able to assemble parcels of land, giving redevelopment more of a chance for success, board members said. Elkington said board and staff members had been meeting with property owners over the past nine months for owners to put together plans to redevelop their own property. However, the committee is now confident to offer purchase options. "I think this is our best chance to have real progress," Elkington said. Excluded from the new plan are 91-93 Main St. and 95 Main St., because the property is already under an option agreement and plans are moving forward with developer Bob Williams, the board said. Also, the building at the southwest corner of Union Avenue and Main Street, which Smooth Moves occupies, would be excluded because it is already being renovated. Mark Stephens, owner of the property at 87 and 89 S. Main St., where tenant Perez Cigar Shop is located along with vacant land at 104, 106, 108, and 110 S. Main Street, said he does not feel like he is being forced out of the area. "Either youre going to develop that block or your business, or youre a seller and want to sell your property," Stephens said. "The problem has been that there are so many different property owners. So, I think for the Center City Commission to step up and play this role is really part of its function," he said. If the agreement lapses, and no developer is found for the property, the CCDC would forfeit the agreement fund to the property owner. The time limit for someone to come in and purchase property with a plan for development is Dec. 31 according to the contract, with a six-month extension. The extension would accrue a 5 percent (of purchase price) fee. If the property owner doesnt agree to the option purchase, the outlook doesnt look bright. "We would look at what options we have left, including condemnation," Sanford said. He added a plan to revitalize the block was approved by the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission about two years ago, making it public policy. The CCC has been told to "fix Main Street," Sanford said. The board unanimously approved the request. Board member Christine Munson recused herself from the vote because of her affiliation with First Tennessee Bank Trust.