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VOL. 119 | NO. 189 | Monday, October 17, 2005

CCC Initiative Seeks to Train New Developers

By Andy Meek

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NEW TALENT: With construction work occurring throughout Downtown, the Center City Commission is reaching out to attract new developers. -- Photograph By Andy Meek

Sometimes it seems there's no limit to the imagination of Downtown developers, especially since the urban renewal that has already swept through much of the area is now moving to the fringes of Downtown, where vacant land, underutilized buildings and historic structures all could use a new beginning.

Development direction. But dreamers need a little bit of direction now and then. The Center City Commission is offering a crash course in real estate development this month, a program geared particularly to aspiring women and minority developers.

Jimmie Tucker, co-owner of Self Tucker Architects Inc., is one of three featured speakers scheduled for the two-day event, to be held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center Oct. 28 and 29. Tucker said the program is sorely needed because of the sheer amount of new development taking place Downtown.

The CCC, which is presenting the event along with The NeighborWorks Training Institute of America, is coordinating more than $2 billion in development projects in the Downtown area. And developers don't have an abundance of outlets to learn how to tap into those opportunities, Tucker said.

"As you know, there's a tremendous amount of real estate development taking place in the Downtown area, and, quite honestly, there's still quite a bit needing to be done," he said.

Tucker's firm has left its own fingerprint on several high-profile Downtown destinations, including FedExForum and the National Civil Rights Museum.

"And a number of people have indicated an interest in doing real estate development as they see others taking part in the Downtown revitalization, but many of them don't know the various steps that are involved, how to get started, what's required in terms of start-up capital and how to go about selecting sites," Tucker said.

"A number of people have indicated an interest in doing real estate development as they see others taking part in the Downtown revitalization, but many of them don't know the various steps that are involved."
- Jimmie Tucker
co-owner, Self Tucker Architects Inc.

Learning the process. The CCC course is billed as an introductory class to give aspiring developers an idea of how the process works. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 28 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 29. Cost is $50.

On the first day, attendees will be greeted by Memphis City Council members Rickey Peete and Barbara Swearengen Holt before featured speakers launch into topics such as planning, project design and the approval process.

"The Center City Commission has not exactly done something like this before," said Jerome Rubin, manager of diversity outreach for the CCC. "However, in the past we have had what I'll refer to as 'information forums' that we have held down at Central Station, where we focused on women and minority business entities to try to provide them information about Downtown development projects. And that's our goal with this development class, too."

Range of opportunities. Developers can dip their toes in the water just about anywhere Downtown. Tucker said areas particularly primed for new projects include the South Forum District and the area north of Chelsea Avenue that's part of Uptown.

"And there are other areas where development can take place, so what we want to do is provide an overview about the process so these individuals who want to do that will be more knowledgeable about how to put together a team and just how to get started," he said.

Tucker's presentation will focus mainly on the design and construction process. Other speakers are A.B. O'Brien, an instructor with the NeighborWorks Institute, and Tim Bolding, executive director of United Housing Inc. in Memphis. And though the program is aimed at women and minorities, anyone is welcome to attend, Rubin said.

"I like to talk about a developer, at least my concept of a developer, being kind of like a dreamer," Rubin said. "He's an individual who has a concept of something in his mind and is able to bring all the resources necessary to make that concept a reality.

"That's where this all starts, but you need to have some understanding of the process itself. And we're going to touch on all those steps, in terms of developing a concept, bidding the construction, financing the project, getting your plans approved through the Office of Planning and Development, the construction phase and the sales and marketing of it."

Participants. The class can accommodate 42 people, and about 35 were signed up as of last week. If demand is high enough, Rubin said similar programs might be arranged in the future.

In the meantime, attendees of this month's event will benefit from the knowledge of a number of experts in various fields.

"We're just trying to give people information about Downtown," Rubin said. "And for example, we will do a PowerPoint presentation on the South Forum area just to give people in the class some insight as to what's anticipated to happen in that area. And maybe since nothing has really gotten off the ground there too much at this point, it could be an area they might want to examine for opportunities for themselves."

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