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VOL. 122 | NO. 66 | Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Daily Digest

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Signature Marketing Owners Buy 1755 Kirby Building

     The owners of a local advertising and marketing firm have bought the building that houses the company's headquarters.
     Signature Marketing Solutions co-founders Charles Marshall and Mark Henry, under the name Signature Management Group LLC, bought the 1755 Kirby Parkway building for $4.3 million from Kirby Parkway Partners LLC, filing a $3.7 million loan through GEDirect. Signature Marketing's headquarters are at 1755 Kirby Parkway, Suite 200.
     The three-story, 33,100-square-foot building was built in 1984 and sits on a little more than two acres on the west side of Kirby Parkway north of Poplar Avenue. The Shelby County Assessor's 2006 appraisal was $2.9 million. Kirby Parkway Partners bought the building in September 2001 for $2.8 million.
     Marshall, the company's chief idea officer, said Signature occupies one-third of the building, which is almost completely leased. Other tenants include medical and financial offices. Signature will consider expansion as needed when tenants move out. Chicago-based Grubbs & Ellis Co. has been retained as property manager.
     Signature was founded in 1994 and now employs a staff of 65, according to the company's Web site. It acquired Memphis-based Streamline Direct Mail & Fulfillment in May. In conjunction with the acquisition, the company changed its name from Signature Advertising to Signature Marketing Solutions.

Memphis Attorney to Serve Civil Rights Commission Committee

     Memphis attorney Greg Grisham has been selected to serve on the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights.
     Grisham is a partner in the law firm of Weintraub, Stock & Grisham PC and focuses his practice in the area of employment and labor law.
     Grisham was one of 11 Tennesseans named to the state advisory committee and will serve a two-year term. The commission has 51 advisory committees - one for each state and the District of Columbia. Each advisory committee is composed of citizens familiar with local and state civil rights issues.
     The advisory committee members serve without compensation and assist the commission in its functions related to discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability and national origin.

Primacy Opens Office In New York City

     Memphis-based Primacy Relocation on Monday announced it has opened a New York City office in an effort to further support the needs of its clients operating in the northeast region. The new office is in Midtown Manhattan and will be supervised by Primacy's director of global operations, Jennifer White.
     "New York is an international business hub and this expansion will further reinforce our commitment to providing localized service delivery to our clients," said Michelle Vallejo, Primacy's president, The Americas, in a statement. "We have put in place a seasoned team of professionals with extensive industry experience to best meet the needs of this very important market."
     The expansion is the latest in a wave of recent acquisitions and office openings by Primacy.
     In December, Primacy's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) division announced the acquisition of Foursquare Relocation, increasing business unit revenues by nearly 40 percent and expanding operations in London, Paris, Geneva and Amsterdam. Most recently, Primacy Asia announced the opening of a Hong Kong office, which will serve as the company's Asia headquarters.
     Primacy Relocation is a third-party employee relocation provider. Primacy administers programs for employers throughout the Americas, EMEA and Asia regions. Core services include home sales, destination services, household goods move management and overall program administration.

Cordova Leadership Council Hosts Discussion on Housing Market

     Stakeholders involved with a community organization in Cordova are gearing up for an educational presentation to be held Thursday on the community's much-maligned housing market.
     The Cordova Leadership Council (CLC) is presenting "Maintaining Neighborhoods of Choice: How Neighborhood Housing Markets Work" at Advent Presbyterian Church, 1879 North Germantown Parkway, to provide analysis of the housing market. The discussion will be led by Dr. Phyllis Betts, director of the Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action at the University of Memphis.
     Property values in the area have declined, according to the CLC, but increases continue to be common, which is one aspect of the market that will be discussed. Also on tap will be community action ideas intended to have an impact on crime reduction and foreclosure prevention.

New York Firm Expands its Memphis Presence

     New York-based Verified Person Inc. is expanding its Memphis presence. The company has hired Dennis O'Connor as vice president of development.
     O'Connor will relocate to Memphis to build an information technology and software development group in the Memphis office. Verified Person opened its Memphis office in June primarily to house sales and marketing staff.
     For the past 11 years, O'Connor has worked for Hewlett-Packard Corp. in several positions including program manager, storage software business manager and chief technology officer for HP OpenView.
     Prior to his tenure at HP, O'Connor served as president of Procase Corp. in San Jose, Calif. He assumed control of day-to-day operations of Procase at the request of investors.
     Verified Person is a pre-employment screening firm that provides criminal background screening and identity verification services. The company was founded by John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Computer, and Tal Moise, former chief information officer of Clarion Health Partners.

Young Heritage to Hold First Big Event With 'Smart Growth' in Mind

     Last October, Josh Whitehead paid for a three-hour ride from a commercial helicopter service based at the General DeWitt Spain Airport. He gave the pilot a map of Memphis and instructed him to "stay within the parkways."
     After the chopper embarked and he began that late-fall sightseeing trip, Whitehead - the director of city planning for Germantown - then grabbed his camera and leaned out the window.
     His mission that day was to capture some aerial photography for use in a historic exhibit that will be on display in Memphis starting next week. The inspiration for it was the idea of "smart growth" - the development concept that involves building with people in mind instead of automobiles - which is becoming more en vogue among local planners, developers and politicians.
     But for his exhibit, Whitehead wanted to look backward instead of imagining the smartly designed neighborhoods of the future. In other words, the idea behind "smart growth" is not necessarily to reinvent the wheel, but to go back to more traditional development practices - so why not, he reasoned, dig up the original blueprints of "smart growth" themselves?
     The result is "Pre-War Memphis Neighborhoods: The Original Smart Growth," an exhibit and discussion that will be held at the headquarters of Memphis Heritage Inc. (MHI) April 19. Whitehead and his project are part of Young Heritage, a group of young professionals that's a spin-off of the MHI advocacy group.
     "Josh has done a lot of research into old historical neighborhoods," said June West, executive director of MHI.
Legs, not wheels
More than a dozen subdivision blueprints of those Memphis neighborhoods will be on display for next week's event - as well as a more modern feature that's a product of Whitehead's helicopter ride last fall.
     With trees in full bloom and the autumn weather perfectly illuminating his neighborhoods of choice, his aerial foray produced some current shots of the locales in his exhibit. Coupled with historic documents, the result is a striking before-and-after comparison.
     "Basically, we've been building cities for the last 50 years for the automobile," Whitehead said. "But that automatically turns into second-class citizens anyone under the age of 16, anyone who doesn't have a car, the blind, the deaf, anybody who wants to walk to work, and more.
     "The idea behind this is - I work for the City of Germantown, for example, and we are working on reinventing our code of ordinances to allow for basically the kind of development that was just the natural kind pre-World War II."
     In other words, he and others are after developments that include neighborhoods with a defined center, perhaps a square or town green. Developments where most of the homes are within a five-minute walk - not car ride - of the center.
A simpler time
In Memphis, current examples include Harbor Town, the picturesque mixed-use community on Mud Island that looks like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Relying on centuries-old, often inscrutable architectural drawings, it is as if Whitehead is saying, via his project, that the Harbor Towns of old used to be the norm - not a sporadic development fad.
     "Pre-War Memphis Neighborhoods" is one of the first programs sponsored by Young Heritage, which launched with a kick-off party last fall at Howard Hall, the Italianate mansion at 2282 Madison Ave. that serves as MHI's headquarters. The group's stated ambition is to cultivate a dedication to historic causes among a younger generation.
     One of the co-founders of Young Heritage is Neely Woodson Powell, for whom dedication to historic causes is in her blood. Powell's late father Ben Woodson, while in his 20s, co-developed Overton Square, regarded as the city's prime entertainment hotspot in its heyday.
     "This will be such an interesting and educational show for everyone from developers, city planners, Realtors and anyone who just wants to see their neighborhoods or any of our city's first and finest neighborhoods," Powell said.
Echoes of troubled past
The documents Whitehead dug up, many of them handwritten, are a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. One of them, for example, shows that Union Avenue originally was planned to run through Chickasaw Gardens, a route that never materialized.
     On one planning document, what now is East Parkway is labeled simply "public parkway," and Poplar Avenue is called "Poplar Boulevard." Subdivision plats, which are documents that show a layout of various lots, often came with certain restrictions attached to future developments, some of them racial restrictions.
     Those racial restrictions often would be attached to separate documents, so they would not be too readily available. But one plat Whitehead found - for Overton Park Heights, a community roughly between Jackson and Summer avenues - actually put racial restrictions on the plat itself.
     Whitehead's helicopter ride around the city ended up producing about 700 aerial shots. Eighteen neighborhoods are represented in the exhibit in addition to the subdivision plats and a final tally of 25 to 30 photos taken from his helicopter ride.
     "There's a lot of buzz right now with smart growth, and you've got things like Harbor Town and South Bluffs," Whitehead said. "So I just think people are rediscovering urban living, not only here in Memphis, but everywhere in America."
Written by Andy Meek
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