Thursday, July 31, 2003, Vol. 117, No. 137

CCC picks minority business for Jeans Glory building

CCDC selects Jeans Glory developer

By ANDREW BELL

The Daily News

A Center City Development Corp. subcommittee reluctantly recommended Wednesday that the board sell a dilapidated building on South Main Street to a minority development group who, in turn, wants to attract a fast-food restaurant as a tenant.

The committee chose PJP Inc. to revitalize the vacant Jeans Glory Building at 83 S. Main St. over developers Gil and Rebecca Callaway.

Both groups wanted to purchase the historic structure, located in the Main Street Demonstration Block.

The committee expressed concern over granting approval to either developer, however, because of structural problems that will be expensive to fix in the 123-year-old, three-story building.

This is perhaps the single most difficult building on the demonstration block, Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford said. I wouldnt wish this project on my worst enemy.

He cited two independent structural engineering analyses that determined the building could not be cost-efficiently renovated.

Both in documents and in discussion, PJP said it has held preliminary discussions with Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits about opening a two-story eatery in the building pending purchase of the structure.

The Callaways who are separately negotiating the $8,750 sale of vacant property across the street from Jeans Glory to the CCC offered a detailed plan to convert the building into three two-bedroom residential units.

The Callaways were credited as having helped persuade the Memphis Landmarks Commission to decide earlier this year to deny a request to have the 4,800-square-foot building demolished.

PJP estimated combined purchase and renovation costs of the building at $460,000, and Callaway estimated the costs at $356,000.

The committee pointed to several questionable figures in both proposals, but in the end, sided with PJP.

Id prefer a commercial use of the building over a residential use, board member Rickey Peete said. And, we have a goal of attracting minority participation in the urban redevelopment process.

Committee member Lee Askew welcomed the idea of minority business participation in the revitalization of the run-down block, but expressed concern about the expense of PJPs undertaking.

Like other committee members, he worried that once the prospective new owners take a harder look at the renovation costs or if Popeyes executives retract from their commitment the developers would be left with an empty building that has little investment promise.

Here we finally have a group of productive African-Americans involved, but we are setting them up for failure, Askew said.

The committee also worried that the building could be damaged or ruined when the Perez Building next door is demolished in the near future to make way for apartments.

Peete told CCC staff to ensure that strong language is inserted in the contract protecting the commission from lawsuits.

The committee called on staff members to once again review the buildings problems and reiterate their concerns with PJP representatives.

The group also wants a timetable for completion of the renovation project, as well as strict building standards, in any agreement.

I think to award them the project and, at the same time, try to persuade them to get out of it is a flaw in logic, committee member Christine Munson said.