VOL. 129 | NO. 75 | Thursday, April 17, 2014
Southbrook Mall Plans Simmer
By Bill Dries
If the city is going to spend money on a renovation of the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven, it should be part of a larger plan for Whitehaven and tie in to the aerotropolis concept.
The Wharton administration has a $6.5 million plan for upgrading Southbrook Mall. But mall owners want $1.5 million for a new roof and repairs to the heating and air conditioning.
(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
That’s what city Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb said Tuesday, April 15, as he outlined a $6.5 million plan for turning the mall into a “town center” that includes some city government offices and private retail.
“We just think it’s important to tie it altogether,” Lipscomb said of a still tentative plan that relies on the city securing federal funding. “If we don’t, Southbrook Mall may not be successful.”
The plan once again drew opposition from the owners of the mall, who want $1.5 million in city funding for a new roof and heating and air conditioning repairs at the mall they bought for $400,000.
Council member Harold Collins withdrew the resolution for the funding to meet with the Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration on the town center plan.
The money for the roof and HVAC repairs was originally to come from the city’s capital budget. But city attorneys and bond counsel said the capital funding could not be spent on what would be a private use.
Lipscomb said the more expensive conversion is a way to get the money for the basic repairs.
“I’m trying to find a way to get around that to repair the mall,” he added.
Council member Lee Harris proposed that if the administration didn’t find the money for the basic repairs in a month that the $1.5 million would be taken from city reserves.
Before that amendment could come to a vote, Collins withdrew the resolution.
An earlier effort to require insurance to indemnify the city if the repairs weren’t carried out or the owners filed for bankruptcy was approved. The council required the same insurance before approving city funding for the renovation of the Chisca Hotel.
“This is just a bunch of crap,” said council member Janis Fullilove, who favored granting the funding immediately with no strings.
“You’re talking about $8 million compared to $1.5 million is what they want,” she said referring to the total cost with the $1.5 million incorporated into the town center effort.
“Why are you all jacking around these individuals? They are being jerked around like rag dolls when other people come to us for millions of dollars. Just with these black people, that’s the stipulations we are putting on them.”
Council member Bill Boyd had a different view.
“It’s like we’ve got a tiny project and just a small amount of (private) money invested,” he said. “And we’ve done everything in the world to get taxpayers’ money to get it going.”
Council member Edmund Ford Jr., who proposed the insurance requirement, said he asked constituents which option they preferred and found most favor the town center plan.
“They don’t want anything minimal. They want the things that everybody else is getting,” Ford said referring to plans by the administration for three town centers including Southbrook. “I could go to sleep at night peacefully with a no vote on this. They said, ‘We want what we deserve.’ The big picture. Not just a Band-Aid.”