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VOL. 123 | NO. 198 | Thursday, October 9, 2008

Daily Digest

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Lightman Files $10.6M Permit For Centennial Gardens

Michael Lightman Realty Co. has filed a $10.6 million permit application with the city-county Department of Construction Code Enforcement to build the second phase of the Centennial Gardens apartments at 7751 Centennial Drive in Southeast Memphis. The property is off Hacks Cross Road south of Winchester Road.

This next phase of apartments includes 176 units, with a

mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, said company principal Michael Lightman Sr. This phase follows the original 256-unit phase.

Patton & Taylor Construction Co. is contractor for the second phase. Site work is being done with full-fledged construction set to begin within a couple of months, Lightman said.

Centennial Gardens is being built simultaneously with another Lightman project, the Centennial Commons shopping center on the north side of Winchester.

The two projects are part of Centennial Park, a 300-acre development that includes retail, medical offices, restaurants, a hotel and more. Michael Lightman Realty Co. began work on Centennial Park a decade ago.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

Downtown Hotel Scheduled for LUCB

Plans for a 131-room hotel on the southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street are scheduled to go before the city-county Land Use Control Board today.

Summit Management Corp. is seeking a special use permit for a Courtyard by Marriot hotel.

The eight-story, $21 million project is expected to be completed by summer. It would be Summit’s third hotel in the Court Square area.

Also on the agenda is a special use permit for sports field lighting for Briarcrest Christian School on the west side of Houston Levee Road near Walnut Grove Road.

The board will meet at 10 a.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

City Council Approves Agreement With Bass Pro

The Memphis City Council has approved a development agreement with Bass Pro Shops to develop The Pyramid. The council voted to authorize Mayor Willie Herenton to execute the agreement, which involves $30 million in sales tax revenue to be channeled to the project through a Tourism Development Zone.

The 10-2 council vote came Tuesday, the day after members of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners put off a decision on a proposed sell-off of its share of The Pyramid to the city. The city is offering the county $5 million for the county’s share of The Pyramid as well as the Mid-South Coliseum and Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Council member Joe Brown was critical of the commission, likening its politics to “Mayberry RFD.”

“You’ve got a big white elephant on the lower end of Front Street,” he said. “We need to make a move. This is not Mayberry RFD.”

Other council members sought assurances that if sales tax revenues are affected by the economic downturn, the project won’t rely on city general fund revenues.

Attorney Charles Carpenter, who is bond counsel for the Herenton administration in the pending deal, said if the sales tax revenue produced is less than needed, the project would be scaled back or its timeline would change. But money from the city’s general fund would not be used.

Attorney Don Holm also told council members that the plan to use new market tax incentives for financing of the projects was given a boost this month when the pool of federal funding was extended by $3.5 billion by Congress.

Council members Janis Fullilove and Harold Collins voted no. Council member Jack Sammons was absent.

Mayor Willie Herenton cited the different debates by the council and commission as a reason for local government consolidation.

“I don’t know if you are having fun,” Herenton said in making his consolidation pitch earlier in the day to commissioners as well as council members. “But you still haven’t decided the Bass Pro issue.”

Fred’s Same-Store Sales Rise 1.1 Percent in Sept.

Memphis-based Fred’s Inc. reported Tuesday its same-store sales rose 1.1 percent in September, but the discount retailer lowered its third-quarter profit outlook as consumer spending remains soft.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, is a key indicator of

retailer performance since it measures growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

The company report said for the five weeks ended Oct. 4, total sales rose to $161.3 million from $161.1 million in the prior-year period.

Chief Executive Michael J. Hayes said in a statement that sales were weak at the end

of the month because of “unprecedented” financial concerns that have affected the economy and adjustments consumers are making in their spending to confront the new uncertainties.

Total sales year-to-date rose 4 percent to $1.20 billion from $1.16 billion. Same-store sales rose 3.1 percent through the first eight months of fiscal 2008, compared to a year ago.

Pending Home Sales Up 7.4 Percent in August

Pending home sales rose 7.4 percent from July to August, an unexpected piece of

positive news for the battered U.S. housing market.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes rose to 93.4 from an upwardly revised July reading of 87. The reading was the highest since June 2007.

Home sales are considered pending when the seller has accepted an offer, but the deal has not yet closed. Typically there is a one- to two-month lag before a sale is completed.

Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR had predicted the index would fall to 84.9.

The index, which sunk to a record low of 83 in March, stood at 85.8 in August 2007.

Sales are picking up in places that have seen the most severe declines in housing prices, said Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist.

Still, Yun does not expect home prices to rebound until next year and only expects a modest gain of 2 percent to 3 percent in 2009.

Retailers Report Weak September Sales

American shoppers went into hiding in September, sticking to buying the bare-bone essentials and leading many retailers to report dismal sales for the month as skittish consumers grappled with the financial meltdown spreading around the globe.

The weak reports on Wednesday – an alarming gauge of consumer behavior since the meltdown began midway through last month – are fueling more worries about the holiday season and the overall economy, since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity.

Given the sharp falloff in sales and customer traffic, many retailers, including J.C. Penney Co., Kohl’s Corp., Saks Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. cut their outlooks as they use aggressive discounts to pull in shell-shocked shoppers.

“Discretionary spending has come to a trickle,” said Ken Perkins, president of research company RetailMetrics LLC. “Consumers are the most worried I have seen since at least the 1991 recession. There are so many factors laying on their psyche.”

He added that even discounters are going to have a “tough go” this holiday season. Indeed, September results showed discounters weren’t immune to shoppers’ mounting worries about their financial security.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, and wholesale club operator Costco Wholesale Corp. both reported solid sales but results were a bit shy of Wall Street estimates. Target Corp. reported a bigger-than-expected drop and said it expects problems with its credit card business to last through the rest of the year as customers have trouble making payments.

September sales rose 1.7 percent, well below the modest 2.3 percent average growth since the beginning of the retail industry’s fiscal year in February, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ preliminary tally. The tally is based on same-store sales or sales at stores opened at least a year.

WKNO to Air Homer Documentary

WKNO Channel 10 today will present the two-hour documentary “Winslow Homer: Society and Solitude” about the life of famed painter Winslow Homer at 8 p.m.

The film is a result of six years’ work by director Steven John Ross, a professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Memphis.

The film chronicles Homer’s life as a youth in the New York City art scene, his work as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly and during the Civil War and his later years living reclusively in England and Maine.

Ross’ documentary received the Juried Award for Artistic Achievement at the 2007 University Film and Video Association Annual Conference and has been screened in museums across the country.

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens and the U of M College of Communication and Fine Arts are sponsoring the broadcast.

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