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VOL. 123 | NO. 88 | Monday, May 5, 2008

Daily Digest

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St. Jude to Demolish Two Abandoned Buildings

     In an effort to remove blight surrounding its Uptown campus, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has been issued permits to demolish two neighboring buildings. Within the next three weeks, the hospital will tear down an old service station on North Third Street and an old blood bank on Jackson Avenue.
     "The buildings have been abandoned for three years, and we're afraid they're unsafe," said John Curran, director of St. Jude's design and construction department. "We don't have immediate plans. It's just an effort to not have abandoned buildings in Memphis on our doorstep."
     Curran said it's important to beautify the corridor that runs along Second and Third streets, from Jackson Avenue to Lauderdale Street, which serves as the hospital's main entrance on the west side of its campus. Removal of these buildings will aid that goal.
     "We're trying to make it so that we can maintain both of them in a more pleasant appearance," Curran said.
     The service station, at 391 N. Third St., was built in 1977. The 3,007-square-foot building sits on 0.51 acres, and the Shelby County Assessor's 2008 appraisal is $221,100. The old blood bank building, at 150 Jackson Ave., was built in 1963. The 7,956-square-foot building sits on 0.6 acres, and its 2008 appraisal is $415,500.
     St. Jude's fundraising arm, American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities Inc. (ALSAC), owns both properties.
     Memphis-based Chandler Demolition Co. Inc. will handle the demolition within the next three weeks, Curran said.
     The cleared land for both properties will provide growth space for the campus, while the 391 N. Third St. site - recently used to house materials and tools during construction of the Chili's Care Center - will be enclosed with an ornamental metal fence.
     St. Jude is in the midst of a multi-million dollar campus expansion and improvement campaign, and Curran said the hospital is expected in late May to begin the process for significant renovations to its patient care area.
     

CCDC to Discuss Downtown Blue Monkey

     The Center City Development Corp. board of directors will hold a special meeting today to discuss a development loan subordination request.
     The request is coming from the owners of the property at 511 S. Front St., said Dawn Vinson, Center City Commission development project manager.
     "They're refinancing and they're just asking the CCDC board to take a second position," she said. "And it's time-sensitive, so they couldn't wait for the regularly scheduled meeting."
     The property formerly was Alice's Urban Market, but it is slated to become the new location for The Blue Monkey, a restaurant/bar formerly housed in a nearby building that burned down in September 2005. The Corkscrew will be reopening next to Blue Monkey soon.
     Vinson said the subordination request will be the only topic discussed at today's meeting.
     The meeting will be held today at 2 p.m. in the CCC conference room at 114 N. Main St.
     

County Commission To Discuss Charter Amendments

     The Shelby County Board of Commissioners will meet in a special session today to discuss two sets of proposed changes to the county charter.
     The charter changes are ordinances that, if passed, would put the items on the Aug. 7 election ballot for a countywide referendum. One of the sets passed on the second of three readings last week.
     But the other set that is linked to the set that passed was voted down on second reading. Today's meeting is to determine if there are some compromises that can be made to salvage the set of charter changes that didn't have the votes last week.
     Both sets of changes focus on five countywide positions: register, trustee, assessor, clerk and sheriff. All would remain elected offices under the proposed amendments, but they would be county officials under terms of the county charter, not the Tennessee Constitution.
     The amendments that were defeated on second reading would have established the basic changes in the offices as well as setting limits of two consecutive four-year terms on those who hold the offices. That would match the two-term limit that already exists for the county mayor and county commissioners.
     

U.S. District Judges Shifting Courtrooms

     The six U.S. District Court judges in West Tennessee will be changing courtrooms with the recent confirmation of Thomas Anderson by the U.S. Senate as the newest district judge.
     The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee takes in all of West Tennessee, including Memphis and Shelby County. The eastern part of the district is based in Jackson, Tenn.
     Anderson, who has served as a magistrate judge based in both Memphis and Jackson, will be assigned to Memphis. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Breen will move from the federal building in Memphis to a courtroom at the Jackson federal building. He had been working in both cities as well.
     The move comes with the announcement last month that U.S. District Judge James Todd of Jackson will take senior status effective May 20.
     Todd will continue to hear cases in Jackson but will have a reduced caseload as part of his senior status.
     

$2M HUD Grant to Go To Redeveloping Brownfields

     The city of Memphis has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI).
     The BEDI is a competitive grant program administered by HUD designed to stimulate and promote economic and community development.
     BEDI assists cities with the redevelopment of abandoned, idled and underused industrial and commercial facilities (or "brownfield land") where expansion and redevelopment is burdened by real or potential environmental contamination.
     

Mid-America Apts. Reports 43% Drop in Income in Q1

     Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc. has reported a more than 40 percent drop in net income for the first quarter of 2008 compared to the year-ago period.
     The Memphis-based company reported a net income of $4.46 million, or $0.17 per share, for the period ended March 31, compared to $7.83 million during Q1 2007. That represents a 43 percent drop in net income.
     Mid-America also reported that funds from operations for the quarter totaled $26.9 million, or $0.96 per share/unit, compared to $24 million, or $0.87 per share/unit, in the same quarter of 2007.
     In the first quarter of 2007, Mid-America recorded total gains of $6.4 million from the disposition of joint venture assets and incentive fees, and gains on insurance proceeds of $510,000; without these gains, net income available per common share in the first quarter of 2007 would have been $0.04, the company reported.
     

Panel Evaluating Shortfall Refuses to Release Records

     State Funding Board officials tried to keep documents used to determine the severity of the state's budget shortfall from public inspection.
     Two charts comparing tax collections in Tennessee with other states were passed out to members of the State Funding Board by economist Bill Fox recently, but a reporter for The Tennessean newspaper was denied when he asked for a copy.
     Following his presentation to the board that included the description of the state's budget problems as a "perfect storm," Fox retrieved the documents from board members.
     "I haven't broadly passed these out because these were done as a favor to me," Fox told the panel.
     Fox, a University of Tennessee economist who plays a large role in the state's financial planning, said the handout "wasn't my data to release," and that he was given the information under the condition that it not become public.
     Asked by the newspaper whether documents distributed and discussed at public meetings should be public, Fox said: "That's for the Legislature to decide."
     Ann Butterworth, the state's open records ombudsman, also declined to make the documents available.
     Butterworth said the records were never left with the board, so they were never legally in the panel's possession.
     When the Funding Board met again two days later to agree on revenue projections, a staffer handed the reporter a copy of the report that contained the previously closed data.
     

Grand Casino Rebranding Set for Later in May

     A grand opening celebration is scheduled later this month in Tunica, when the Grand Casino Resort officially will be rebranded as Harrah's Casino Tunica.
     The 1 p.m. grand opening ribbon cutting will happen May 23, and will be attended by celebrity chef Paula Deen and various casino officials.
     The reborn casino will include a Paula Deen Buffet, modeled after Deen's house in Savannah, Ga., a new World Series of Poker room and a new restaurant called '37, among other additions.
     In the process of being repositioned as Harrah's, the Grand Casino Resort went through a $45 million renovation.
     For more on efforts in Tunica County, see today's story on Page 1.
     

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 252 6,191
MORTGAGES 73 287 7,379
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 37 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 227 556 13,147
BANKRUPTCIES 40 153 4,500
BUSINESS LICENSES 25 86 2,448
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 37 110 2,650
MARRIAGE LICENSES 16 65 1,300

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