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VOL. 123 | NO. 55 | Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Daily Digest

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Hotel on Shelby Oaks Sells for $2.4 Million

     The 175-room Memphis Plaza Hotel and Suites at 6101 Shelby Oaks Drive, near Sycamore View Road and Interstate 40, has sold for $2.4 million to Memphis-based Splendid Hospitality LLC. The company plans to renovate the 1974 hotel and rebrand it as a Clarion Hotel, said Splendid Hospitality's managing partner and hotel manager, Shiraz Hassanali.
     The deal closed Thursday, and the seller was Florida-based Memphis Hotel Management LLC, which bought the hotel in December 2004 for $1.8 million. The Shelby County Assessor's 2007 appraisal was $1.9 million.
     Splendid Hospitality took out two loans - one for $2.2 million and one for $1.1 million - from First Jackson Bank for the purchase and the renovation. In April the company will begin renovating 20 rooms at a time, with the project taking an estimated four months, Hassanali said.
     Hassanali said the number of rooms will shrink slightly, to about 170, as he plans to convert a few connecting rooms into suites to give the property an extended-stay product.
     The 93,378-square-foot hotel sits on 4.9 acres; it has a fitness room, an indoor pool and hot tub, as well as a restaurant and bar, all of which are expected to remain operational during the renovation.
     Hassanali said he believes a Clarion product with its amenities will be a good addition, as it attracts business travelers and anyone coming into or out of Memphis.
     "It is the highest brand from the Choice Hotels system," Hassanali said. "There are other Choice brands that are economy brands. This would be a full-service hotel. We thought it would be beneficial, because a lot of times guests are looking for full-service. They're looking for food and beverage, and we would be able to cater to their need."
     The purchase marks Splendid Hospitality's entrance into the Memphis hotel market, and though the company will consider other properties, it is focused on making this conversion successful.
     "We will explore other opportunities," Hassanali said, "but we want to settle in with this first."

CCDC to Consider Security Funding

     The Center City Development Corp. will consider a request for funding today for a pilot security program that will cost $53,000.
          The three-month program would place trained security officers in highly trafficked areas along Main Street and around Court Square from April through June.
          CDA Inc. has been hired to patrol the areas in Downtown. The security officers would work with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office and Downtown business owners to attempt to curb aggressive panhandling and harassment of tourists and people who work in the Downtown area.
          The CCDC also will discuss whether to approve a development loan application for the 8 S. Main St. project and a development loan extension request for The Grade Hotel at 56-62 S. Front St.
          The meeting begins at 9 a.m. today at CCC, 114 N. Main St.

Pyramid Working Group Could be Back in Mix

     The Memphis City Council-Shelby County Board of Commissioners working group on The Pyramid appears to be back on despite earlier word that Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's administration had nixed the idea.
     The idea of the working group with commercial real estate and financial experts was the result of a rare joint council-commission session last month.
     But Shelby County Chief Administrative Officer Jim Huntzicker told commissioners last week, "The city administration advised us that the committee that had been proposed ... was something they weren't interested in. So, the kumbaya attitude that came out of that was short-lived."
     City Council members moved ahead with the idea Tuesday as a resolution setting up the working group won approval in committee sessions. The group would negotiate with Bass Pro Shops and the Ericson Group, the two firms competing to put attractions in The Pyramid.
     "This is something we can do. I think the administration is going to have someone on there. I don't think it's going to be an issue," said council member Shea Flinn.
     Pyramid project director Robert Lipscomb said the Herenton administration never walked away from the concept despite Huntzicker's unequivocal statement.
     "That was never the case," Lipscomb said, insisting the hang up was a plan by the council to use its attorney, Allan Wade. "Everything gets blown out of proportion. All we asked was since (City Council Chairman) Scott (McCormick) independently hired Allan Wade to look into this, how do those two things work together."

Wholesale Prices, Inflation Jump in February

     Wholesale prices rose again in February as another hefty increase in energy costs offset falling food prices. Outside of food and energy, prices shot up at the fastest pace in 15 months. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that wholesale prices were up 0.3 percent last month, following an even bigger 1 percent jump in January.
     Outside of food and energy, the rise in inflation was a troubling 0.5 percent, the biggest increase for core inflation since a rise of 0.9 percent in November 2006.
     The hefty February increase in core inflation raises concerns that relentless increases in energy costs over the past two years are beginning to spread to other areas of the economy.
     The February rise in wholesale prices reflected higher costs not only for energy but also for cars and light trucks as well as a 1.3 percent jump in prescription drug prices.
     The 0.3 percent rise in wholesale prices reflected a 0.8 percent jump in energy costs, driven higher by a 2.9 percent jump in gasoline prices and 5.7 percent increase in residential natural gas prices, the biggest jump in this price in more than two years.
     Food costs at the wholesale level actually fell by 0.5 percent last month as the cost of vegetables, fruit, dairy products and pork all declined.
     For the past 12 months, wholesale prices have risen by 6.4 percent while excluding food and energy. Inflation is up 2.6 percent, the biggest 12-month change for core inflation since the period ending last October.

Shelby Farms Conservancy Seeks Earth Day Vendors

     The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is looking for "green" vendors and exhibitors to participate in its second annual "Down to Earth," the Conservancy's Earth Day Celebration, at Shelby Farms Park on April 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
     Vendors and exhibitors will be able to showcase their earth-friendly products, services or business activities to the attendees of the celebration.
     Companies interested in being a vendor must fit in one of the five following categories: energy, green space, recycling, sustainable procurement and transportation.
     Booths will be provided. The price of a basic booth is $250; extra space costs more. All Internal Revenue Service-approved 501(c)3 and (4) organizations can reserve a booth for $50.
     The deadline to register is April 1.

Filmmaker to Donate Victorian Village Archive

     Memphis filmmaker, photographer, historian and author Willy Bearden will turn over an extensive photo archive of the historic Victorian Village neighborhood to the Memphis Public Library & Information Center Monday. His presentation will be made at 5:30 p.m. at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library at 3030 Poplar Ave.
     Bearden will give comments about the photo collection, which includes more than 1,500 digital photos that are catalogued and archived. It will remain available for viewing in the library's Memphis and Shelby County room.
     Bearden also will discuss on Monday his Memphis Legacy Project, an ongoing effort to photograph and document Memphis and the surrounding area.
     The event is free and open to the public.

Dodgeball Event to Benefit Playhouse on the Square

     High Point Coffee will host its first "High Point Coffee Dodgeball Challenge" April 12 from noon to 6 p.m. at Germantown Athletic Club, 1801 Exeter Road. Proceeds from the event will benefit Playhouse on the Square.
     The tournament will include up to 32 teams that will compete in best-of-five matches until the first- and second-place winners remain.
     Each team must have at least six players, with a maximum of 10.
     Cost is $150 per team. Registration forms must be turned in no later than April 9.
     Teams can register by visiting any High Point Coffee location, Germantown Athletic Club or Playhouse on the Square.
PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396