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VOL. 130 | NO. 72 | Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Density Key to Central Station Timing

By Bill Dries

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The redevelopment plan for Downtown’s Central Station is the expansion of the South Bluffs development of the 1990s. Or it is a bridge connecting the transformation of the old Cleaborn Homes public housing development to the east and maybe Foote Homes to come.

The descriptions of the $55 million plan as a link to existing development on all sides of the train station speak to the importance of its location.

TURLEY

“It’s a testament to what’s happening Downtown, the fact that our residential population has gotten to this point,” said Alex Turley, vice president of Henry Turley Co., on the WKNO TV program Behind The Headlines.

Turley counts 1,150 new residential units between Beale Street to the north, Crump Boulevard to the south, Riverside Drive to the west and Second Street to the east. That includes those in the Central Station plan.

The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com

Turley Co. and Community Capital are the partners who presented the still-tentative plan for the train station redevelopment last month to Memphis Area Transit Authority board members.

WILLIS

“It’s a fairly unique situation,” said Community Capital president Archie Willis of the financing which is made up of $52 million in private investment and $3 million in public or government financing for infrastructure.

“Part of the challenge is identifying those partners,” he said. “They will bring their funding and financing to the table to combine with a small amount of funding we are requesting from the public sector.”

The partners identified so far are Kemmons Wilson Cos., which would develop a hotel in the train station tower itself; Malco, which would build a five-screen movie theater at Front Street and G.E. Patterson that takes in the old Power House building; and the Canale family, which recently began talking with development partners about a grocery store on the property.

The hotel and theater are awaiting a green light from the MATA board.

“It brings density to this area,” said June West, Memphis Heritage executive director. “Having our offices on South Main a long time ago, I saw the give and take that was happening – people being there almost too soon and then not making it.”

The Turley-Community Capital partnership meanwhile works on developing a market plaza that will involve changes to the property in order to improve access, especially east to west.

“The train station itself is a barrier from the east to the west,” Willis said. “You literally have to walk around the block. We want to create what we are calling a connector concourse that will be an open area from Main Street that will go through under the (train) platform and connect with what we call the Market Plaza on the western part of the property.”

Along with that, the trolley station now on the G.E. Patterson side of the station would move to South Main marking the east-west concourse.

“If they are able to relocate the trolley stop then that opens up that area by the Power House and we will create what we think is a great civic space,” Willis added. “It will be a market plaza where people can gather. People can gather before they go to a move and after the movie. Ideally we may get some retail development under the platform.”

MATA president Ron Garrison said the Central Station plans, which the MATA board will act on later this spring, retain the basic transportation mission. They move city buses closer to the street and closer to connections with the trolley system and those on foot or bicycle while also maintaining Amtrak rail service north and south of the city.

“What I’m more interested in is up on top where the buses are, moving those down onto Front Street, creating a new station for the trolleys and connecting services for our disabled and elderly customers,” Garrison said. “If we can take that station out and combine it with one station on (Main) Street. … it will be kind of multi-modal.”

With each partner arranging their own financing, Central Station is different than the much larger and more complex $200 million Crosstown Concourse project.

The redevelopment of the old Sears Crosstown building began construction earlier this year after more than 20 financing partners were stitched together in a single financing package.

“They had new market tax credits for example. They are trying to use historic tax credits,” Willis said. “Combining tax credits is challenging in and of itself. … Theirs was much, much more complicated.”

West sees similarities in the Memphis institutions involved in both that have deep roots in the city.

“If you look at the success stories we’ve had with Broad, with Overton Square, what we will see Downtown – it’s local investment,” she said. “It’s local individuals that understand our city and know what its citizens want.”

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