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VOL. 126 | NO. 159 | Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Council Gets Details Of Pyramid Construction

By Bill Dries

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When Memphis City Council members hear Tuesday, Aug. 16, that the Bass Pro Shops conversion of The Pyramid is again ready to move, they also will be asked to approve a pair of resolutions to finance a city buyout of county government’s interest in the Memphis Cook Convention Center as well as the development of the nearby Pinch District.

Council members get the briefing during their 2 p.m. executive session at City Hall, 125 N. Main St., and meet in regular session at 3:30 p.m.

The two financing items involve borrowing an undisclosed amount from the Center City Revenue Finance Corp., as well as a bond allocation from the CCRFC and federal Housing and Urban Development funds.

The bonds would be repaid from sales tax revenue generated in a tourism development zone.

The items as of week’s end were not on the agenda for the full council session at 3:30 p.m. But in the past, such items have been added to the council’s agenda the same day after a briefing in executive session.

In this case, the city and Bass Pro Shops executives have set an Oct. 11 date for construction to begin on The Pyramid and a new opening date of Aug. 1, 2013, for the revamped Pyramid with a Bass Pro Shops super store and other attractions, including a hotel, on the property.

The first construction work is expected to be preparing The Pyramid for whatever the outdoors retailer plans to put into the structure. That is the city’s responsibility and expense under terms of the deal between the city and the retailer. It involves such items as taking out the seating bowl in the structure built in the early 1990s as an arena.

The breakthrough that prompted the setting of the new target dates is an agreement on a seismic retrofit that includes not just the building but the western side of the property on the Wolf River Harbor. The estimated cost of that is $25 million total and it is also expected to be a cost the city bears.

Seismic concerns almost derailed the project several times and had just been settled earlier this year when a state official said the new use of the structure by Bass Pro Shops meant that new stricter seismic standards on the books since The Pyramid’s opening in November 1991 would apply.

Council members will be listening closely for what has been added to the project, notably a buyout of the county’s share of ownership in the convention center.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton’s administration, after considerable council debate, got the green light to buy the county’s share of The Pyramid, which city Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb argued would make the adaptive reuse of The Pyramid easier to negotiate without having to negotiate with two local governments.

County commissioners held out until they got a deal in which the city indirectly agreed to continue financing the local health department for one more fiscal year.

The convention center would be renovated less than 10 years after a major renovation that included the construction of the adjoining Cannon Center for the Performing Arts and two months after its management was turned over to the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, which was already marketing and negotiating with those booking events in the center.

An expansion of the convention center seems unlikely because it is hemmed in on all four sides.

When he was mayor, Herenton suggested a westward expansion if some of the tangle of interstate ramps could be moved. The effort made no significant progress beyond those remarks.

Another element to be discussed in Tuesday’s presentation is the city’s bid to buy the Lone Star Industries property, which is next to The Pyramid property. The plant is a port for tons of cement shipped by river.

The last three mayoral administrations – Hackett, Herenton and Wharton – have eyed such a purchase of the industrial property as part of plans for residential or tourism development of the riverfront.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 6 54 3,101
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468
BUSINESS LICENSES 34 90 6,712
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 16 110 7,899
MARRIAGE LICENSES 32 91 4,734