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VOL. 128 | NO. 34 | Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Council to Hear Fairgrounds Update

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members get a look Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the latest plan for renovation of the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

The city administration presents its plan at the 1:45 p.m. council executive session.

The council’s voting meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has outlined a general plan for a public recreation area developed around the existing Tiger Lane area leading from the East Parkway entrance to the western end of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and the Memphis Salvation Army Kroc Center, which has its formal opening Feb. 24.

The idea of a different configuration for the fairgrounds began toward the end of the administration of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

Plans by developer Henry Turley and a group he was part of called Fair Ground LLC included a big box retail store to generate sales tax income for the development of the rest of the property. But Herenton never committed to the plan and as a result no plan for development moved forward.

During the brief tenure of Myron Lowery as interim mayor in 2009 following Herenton’s resignation, all but two buildings on the fairgrounds property were demolished.

What remains are the Pipkin Building and the Mid-South Coliseum.

Tiger Lane opened during the Wharton administration. And Wharton’s most recent updates of the plan have included a financing plan that would draw sales tax revenue for the development from the creation of a Tourism Development Zone that includes the Overton Square entertainment district but no big box store on the fairgrounds site.

Wharton has emphasized that he has made no decision on the coliseum, which has been vacant and unused for years because of problems with access for those with disabilities.

But he said last month that his preference would be to demolish the mid-1960s era structure rather than upgrade it to meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city recently announced a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over similar ADA issues at the Liberty Bowl that will involve $12 million of renovations to the stadium, which was built about the same time as the coliseum.

On the council agenda later in the afternoon is the second of three readings of the ordinance that would set a date before Sept. 30 for a citywide referendum on a half-percent sales tax hike.

More than half of the revenue from the tax hike would be designated for a city operated or contracted pre-kindergarten program. The remaining $20 million of the estimated $47 million in annual revenue from the tax hike would be used to roll back the city’s property tax rate by 20 cents.

The council also votes on a planned development at Clarke Road and East Shelby Drive in Hickory Hill for an intermodal yard for storage, maintenance and repair of intermodal containers. The Marino Group would operate the yard.

Other zoning matters include a rezoning of 8.2 acres on Pleasant Hill Road for a warehouse facility.

And the council votes on allocating and appropriating $2.8 million in general obligation bonds for infrastructure improvements connected to the expansion of the Nike plant in Frayser.

The council is also scheduled to vote on third and final reading of an ordinance setting up property registration requirements and fees as part of the city’s campaign to more easily identify owners of neglected properties.

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