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VOL. 129 | NO. 23 | Tuesday, February 4, 2014

City Council Reviews Raleigh Springs Mall Plan

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members get their first public detailed look Tuesday, Feb. 4, of an “urban renewal” plan for the Raleigh Springs Mall.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

The review of the Raleigh Spring Mall plan comes during an 11:45 a.m. committee session. A vote on the resolution usually follows at the next council session two to three weeks later. It could be added to Tuesday’s agenda.

The “urban renewal” status of the 68.2-acre project means it will be under the auspices of the Memphis Housing Authority and the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

For the project to qualify for state and federal funding, the mall at Austin Peay Highway and Yale Road would be declared “a slum and blighted area” under terms of Tennessee law. The city through the Memphis Housing Authority would own the land and retain ownership through its development, leasing the land to those parts of the project that are private development.

Private businesses currently open in the mall would be relocated to other parts of the mall during demolition.

The plan is to build a long-planned new Memphis Police traffic precinct on the site of the mall, move the Old Allen police station, now in the oldest police precinct building in the city, to the mall footprint and build a new Raleigh library.

It’s not the first time the city of Memphis has had plans for moving government operations to the intersection. During the administration of former Mayor Willie Herenton, the city bought what had been a supermarket on the southwest corner of Austin Peay and Yale. The first plan by the city was to locate information technology services there. That later changed to the city’s traffic division.

The plan sent to council members last week also makes a general reference to a mixed-use development that would include private uses and residential and industrial development.

“In summary, this plan is about links,” the document reads. “Linking citizens to many quality services both public and private; linking sections of the community that have been cut off from each other, and linking Memphians to each other in an energetic new community.”

The preliminary land-use plan includes a farmers market, skate park, recreational lake and walking trails.

The mall opened in 1971, the second enclosed mall in Shelby County, after Southland Mall in Whitehaven.

The council votes Tuesday on an anti-blight program for “tax dead” properties – those in which back taxes and related fees total more than the amount of the property appraisal or what it could ever be sold for.

The Shelby County Commission approved the same resolution in January.

The resolution is a general outline of a five-year pilot program to give nonprofit community development corporations a grant in the amount of the taxes and fees owed on a property. The nonprofit groups would then use the grant to pay the taxes and fees. That part of the proposal has a $200,000 annual cap on the pool of available funds. The second part of the proposal is an annual pool of $100,000 to add an incentive of a grant equal to five years’ worth of taxes on the property.

The resolution is already on its way to the Tennessee Attorney General’s office for legal review, which is the next step in enabling legislation that would permit local legislative bodies to enact blight relief programs.

A City Council committee has already started meeting on the city’s version.

If the attorney general’s office rules the program does not run afoul of the state’s ban on waiving or forgiving property taxes and is not “arbitrary and capricious” by legal standards, the resolution would go back for further approval by both bodies.

Meanwhile, the discussion between the council and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration on the city’s finances continues in an 8:30 a.m. committee session. The committee will discuss a pension audit resolution and the city’s paid leave policy.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda, the council votes on a set of four agreements between the city and the nonprofit Global Ministries Fellowship, which owns four tax-exempt apartment complexes in Memphis and invests in real estate as affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents.

The agreement reimburses the city $5 per unit per month for improvements and services at the Madison Apartments, Tulane Apartments and Warren Apartments.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396