VOL. 123 | NO. 155 | Friday, August 08, 2008
New Binghampton Senior Facility Planned
By Eric Smith
NEW VIEW: Over the next couple of years, a 133-unit senior housing facility called Lakeview Estates will be taking shape in the Binghampton area. – RENDERING COURTESY OF LOONEY RICKS KISS ARCHITECTS
Two generations ago, Darrell Cobbins’ grandfather developed one of Memphis’ first black middle-income communities called Lakeview Gardens.
Over the next couple of years, Cobbins, a commercial real estate developer and broker, will bring a 133-unit senior housing facility to Binghampton, and he’ll pay homage to his real estate lineage by calling it Lakeview Estates.
The facility will be built on roughly seven acres just south of the Memphis Police Department’s Tillman Street Station, pumping new life – and about $8.5 million of capital – into the neighborhood.
Lakeview Estates is one of three projects that arose from the city’s first Diversity Developer Incubator (DDI) program earlier this year, which was designed to promote participation in community revitalization by minority and women developers.
Cobbins, a lifelong Memphian, touted the program for engaging aspiring minority developers who might not otherwise have the chance to become vested in community redevelopment projects.
“I’m excited to be part of the inaugural class,” said Cobbins, who owns the real estate firm Universal Commercial LLC. “I think it shows vision on the part of the city to recognize and understand that they have a role to play in helping to cultivate that type of minority leadership.”
‘Room for growth’
DDI sprang from a Center City Commission (CCC) initiative that emphasized the need for more minority representation in the Downtown renaissance.
Jerome Rubin, the CCC’s manager of diversity outreach, said the under-representation of minorities in development projects throughout the city is apparent, especially when looking at the demographics of the overall community.
“Of the estimated $3 billion worth of projects under way or in the pipeline Downtown, by my estimate, only $35 (million) to $40 million have been developed by minorities,” Rubin said. “If this estimate is just in the ballpark, it leaves a lot of room for growth among minority developers.”
With that in mind, the CCC began training minority and women developers. That evolved into DDI, a program that focused on 13 different phases of the development process, from concept to feasibility to market analysis to engineering to marketing and more.
At the end of the class, participants were invited to team up and pursue the rights – through an RFP process – to three pieces of idle land in the city that needed revitalization.
“I do think it is an effective program to help minorities better understand the development process,” Rubin said. “In the end, if the program has the effect of stimulating more interest among minorities, providing greater insights into the development process/business and can on a competitive basis provide some entry level opportunities from which to grow, then I think it is effective and will serve to help create a stronger developer class within the minority community and the improved economics associated with such a development.”
For his project, Cobbins partnered with Cardell Orrin of Memphis and Reggie Richter of Washington to form Lakeview Estates LP, the entity that will bring the senior facility to life.
The group was awarded its RFP last month and will have 24 months to complete the facility, which will qualify for low-income housing tax credits. Cobbins said he expects to break ground by fall 2009 and finish the project by fall 2010.
Lakeview Estates will be built in two phases, the first of which will be a three-story, 44,000-square-foot, freestanding building with 100 units. The second phase will have 33 units comprised of duplexes and triplexes, giving seniors a variety of living options.
“One of the things we realized from our prior conversations over the years is there is a backlog of affordable senior housing with the city,” Cobbins said. “We felt like if we could get the site, that it intuitively made sense to look at that.”
Robert Montague, executive director of the Binghampton Development Corp., agreed that the community could use additional affordable senior housing choices, and that a minority development at the Tillman site will bring “hope and health to the community.”
“Our demographic studies suggest about a quarter of the Binghampton community are 55 or older, and we have felt independently is that one of the best uses for that land is to support the seniors, especially right there next to the Tillman station precinct,” Montague said.
Aside from Cobbins’ Lakeview Estates, the other winning teams won the rights to develop a one-acre site on Leath Street and a three-acre site at Tchulahoma and Winchester roads. Those properties will be transformed into affordable and senior housing, respectively.
All three winning teams, as well as future DDI success stories, should begin to address the need for more qualified, experienced and fundable minority developers on large-scale city projects.
“This incubator is definitely an answer to that,” Cobbins said. “The more folks that are able to go through it, then the more African-American and minority and women developers you’ll see out there helping shape and transform those communities.”