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VOL. 128 | NO. 247 | Thursday, December 19, 2013

Plan to Renovate Southbrook Mall Resurfaces

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration is working on a broader plan for economic development in Whitehaven that will include a renovation and possible public use of Southbrook Mall.

A broader plan for economic development in Whitehaven that will include a renovation and possible public use of Southbrook Mall is scheduled to come to the City Council in January.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

That’s what city Chief Administrative Officer George Little told Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Dec. 17.

The plan is scheduled to come to the council in Jan. 21 committee sessions.

The administration is still identifying funding sources for the $1.5 million renovation for a new roof on the mall as well as a heating and air conditioning overhaul.

Council member Janis Fullilove pushed for the city funding earlier this year and initially the administration was at most lukewarm to it.

Fullilove’s plan relied on the use of some leftover federal funding being used for streetscape improvements on Elvis Presley Boulevard between Brooks Road and Shelby Drive.

But the funding couldn’t be used for the mall because of legal opinions saying the mall renovations would constitute a private use of the funding and could endanger all of the funding for the entire public use streetscape undertaking.

Little said the administration is exploring the idea that the mall could be used for a Memphis Police precinct or a night court site.

“We want this mall project to be a success, not just a redoing of the building,” Little said.

To that end, the administration plans to hire a consultant to review the structure of the mall as well as a planner to work on the broader plan for Whitehaven.

Southbrook Mall was built in the 1970s as the companion to the city’s first shopping mall, Southland Mall, which is on the other side of East Shelby Drive.

Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson bought the 28 acres of land Southbrook is on for $41,071.42 an acre in 1967. At the time, it was a record for Whitehaven real estate.

These days the mall is empty except for a small banquet facility that can be rented. Its storefronts give little indication that there is a mall waiting inside.

By contrast, Southland Mall has an occupancy rate that has remained at 90 percent or above with local management that is vigilant about the mall’s appearance as well as its occupancy.

Southbrook is next to a Kroger supermarket that is one of several the Delta Division of the supermarket chain is renovating. The Kroger Whitehaven renovations to the tune of $5 million began this past May.

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