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

Collierville Chamber to Relocate, Expand

Group plans new facility to meet growing suburb's needs

LANCE ALLAN | The Daily News

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"Our future growth is going to be remarkable with The Avenue (Carriage Crossing) coming ... We're going to be in a situation where we will be able to grow to meet those needs."
- Fran Persechini
executive director, Collierville Chamber of Commerce

Collierville Chamber of Commerce officials have been looking for a new home for a few years now - and it seems they finally have found one.

The chamber expects to break ground next month on a new facility in Halle Park Professional Centre, adjacent to Collierville Town Hall.

Rapid growth. The timing of the move seems fitting in a town that has been experiencing staggering residential and commercial growth, punctuated by this week's opening of The Avenue Carriage Crossing shopping mall.

"When I started here 11 years ago, we were in the depot on the square," said Fran Persechini, executive director of the chamber. "Then we moved up to a beautiful historic home on South Center Street. We're now here closer to the square on Walnut Street occupying the old town hall. It will be wonderful to have our own building.

"With a larger facility, we'll be able to offer expanded meeting space for business and membership groups. We'll be able to fulfill our program, offer more programs. It's just going to be so great. We'll have more productivity with the staff with the new space."

With the move, the chamber will expand from its current 2,300-square-foot space into an office of just over 4,500 square feet.

Construction timeline. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in November. Move-in is planned for early 2006, depending on the effects winter weather has on construction, Persechini said.

"One of the positive factors about the decision to go to Halle Park is it is an office PUD (Planned Unit Development)," said E. Dale Jamieson, attorney with the Jamieson Law Firm in Collierville and chairman of the chamber's search committee. "The zoning and development plans have already been approved by the town of Collierville. The office park is well under way. The exterior design of our building has already been planned and approved, so we're able to move forward with that. What we will be in the process of doing in the next 30 to 60 days is the interior programming of the building, which will require some architectural and design work, but we're going to be able to move forward with it quite a bit quicker than if we were taking a different approach.

"Ultimately, we hope to be into the building I would say late spring. It's hard to pinpoint it, but I certainly think that's a realistic goal."

Savage Construction Co. will construct the building shell before turning it over to the chamber to finish out the interior.

Raising funds. Total cost for the new chamber headquarters has not yet been finalized, Jamieson said. About $800,000 was raised through the Collierville Tomorrow program, a partnership between the chamber and businesses in the community initiated to generate funding for economic development, tourism and the new chamber headquarters.

As Collierville continues to grow from the sleepy little town it once was, the chamber's expansion has become a necessity, Persechini said.

"(The new facility) will allow us to grow to meet the needs of the chamber and of the community," she said. "Our future growth is going to be remarkable with The Avenue coming - it's just unbelievable how much growth we're going to have out here. We're going to be in a situation where we will be able to grow to meet those needs."

Business growth. The chamber already has been growing steadily. Five years ago, it had no more than 400 member businesses. Today, Jamieson said, membership is at more than 600.

"We're experiencing a lot of growth, and we're growing right along with the town," he said. "Anybody that has been in Collierville knows about what's going on out here in terms of retail, in terms of residential construction. FedEx has been a huge boost to the community. Carriage Crossing is going to be a huge boost to the community in terms of retail and tax revenue."

Finding a site. Jamieson was involved from the start in the effort to find a new home for the chamber. He served as chairman of the board in 1999 and 2000. Following his board service, Jamieson was asked to chair the search committee.

"Since 2001 we have looked at a number of sites," he said. "We have tried to determine the type of building/facility that the chamber needed. It's been a long process, but it culminated in our board's action at September's board meeting to vote to accept an offer from Jon Albright, the developer at Halle Park, to build there."

For some old-time Collierville residents, the location marks a big change, since it's a few miles west on Poplar Avenue from the town's historic square. But it makes sense for a community that has spread rapidly westward.

"Our board was strongly in favor of this particular site by the current town hall," Jamieson said. "We did not have an offer made to us for a site Downtown by the town or anyone else ... There are a lot of people that would probably prefer to have it Downtown, but ultimately we made a decision based on what our alternatives were.

"The chamber represents the entire business community, which is not just the Downtown members, but those all over town."

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