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VOL. 124 | NO. 36 | Monday, February 23, 2009

City Program Seeks Minority Developers

By Bill Dries

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INCREASING THE RANKS: Carlee McCullough, city contracts compliance officer, oversees the Diversity Developer Incubator. The 13-week course is designed to increase the ranks of minority developers in Memphis. -- PHOTO BY BILL DRIES

Creating more minority developers means getting them to see blight differently.

That’s what the director of a two-year old effort by the city of Memphis to build diversity in the development community said last week about the effort.

The Diversity Developer Incubator is a 13-week course for 140 prospective developers, “introducing you from everything to the software, to various players in the industry, to subcontractors, to architects, engineers and it just takes you through the funding process as well,” said Carlee McCullough, city contract compliance officer.

African-Americans and women are majorities in terms of their percentage in the Memphis population. But they are minorities in the ranks of the city’s developers.

Those taking the course also compete in a review of proposed developments on city land that has been claimed by local government for eventual tax sale.

The course costs $375 and is open to up to 120 applicants. An information session will be today at 5:30 p.m. at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Ave. The application deadline is March 6 and the first class is March 13.

Last year’s class resulted in three proposals being greenlighted and approved by city officials. The city sold the land for the proposals to the developers for $1.

McCullough said those taking the courses have included real estate brokers, physicians, architects, engineers, bankers and general contractors.

The 2008 projects are:

  • Leath Street Homes, “green” homes to be built on seven lots on Leath Street across from the Porter Leath Center in North Memphis. The developer is Jimmie Tucker.
  • The View, senior citizen housing, being built on two acres of land alongside the lake in Medal of Honor Park off Tchulahoma Road in the airport area. The developer is LiveLife Development, a partnership of Cheron Corbett and Faith Shipp.
  • Lakeview Estates, senior citizen housing at Tillman Street and Johnson Avenue in Binghampton being developed by Darrell Cobbins and Cardell Orrin.

McCullough said the three developments represent $16 million of development on land that had been off city tax rolls in areas considered blighted.

City Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb said the 2009 class will likely face a harder time getting capital than last year’s group.

“I would say it’s going to be more challenging because of the climate nationwide. But we still have some dollars we can allocate to the projects,” he said.

Credit unions and traditional banks have been among those providing financing for the first crop of projects. And winning the financing is the first real world test of what those in the class learn.

“In some cases they need some vision. But they also need some resources. And they also need some training,” Lipscomb said.

The supply of property for development that is off the tax rolls is plentiful.

“They are city-owned properties. They are not taxed,” Lipscomb said. “Many times they are blighted properties. Not only are we creating new minority developers, we are creating economic development. We are creating property taxes.”

For that reason, the publicly funded incentives do not include local tax freezes or breaks.

“We have not given any tax breaks because that would kind of defeat the purpose,” Lipscomb said. “We want to put the property back on the tax rolls. So there are some incentives we give, federal incentives and the land itself.”

The incubator is built on a similar program started by the Center City Commission.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 62 288 2,619
MORTGAGES 52 197 1,783
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 16 53 275
BUILDING PERMITS 0 569 5,701
BANKRUPTCIES 0 87 993
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 110 491
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0