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VOL. 130 | NO. 74 | Thursday, April 16, 2015

Memphis Moves Closer to Downtown Building Purchase

By Bill Dries

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The state of Tennessee may have moved out, but the city of Memphis could be moving in.

The city administration has a tentative deal with the state to buy the Donnelly J. Hill State Office Building for $1.5 million. The deal goes to the Memphis City Council for approval.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The city has a tentative deal to buy the Donnelley J. Hill state office building near City Hall for $1.5 million.

And city Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb will try to get approval of the deal with the state of Tennessee at the Memphis City Council’s April 21 meeting.

Lipscomb has led city negotiations over several months, since the state moved its offices to One Commerce Square from the Hill building on Main Street Mall’s Civic Center Plaza.

The tentative deal headed for council consideration has the city paying for the building over a three-year period: $150,000 in year one, $150,000 in year two and $1.2 million in year three.

Council members are likely to have questions about the terms and the need for the city to expand its office footprint to another building it owns.

The council’s procedure is to hear such items in committee sessions and then vote on them several weeks later at the next voting council meeting. But seven votes on the council could make a vote the day of the committee presentation possible.

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong told council members April 7 that his department will be among the city divisions moving into the state office building. The police department headquarters could occupy the top six floors of the 14-story building that opened in the late 1960s.

He plans to make the move one block to the west sometime in the fiscal year that begins July 1, he told council members.

The news was greeted with a flurry of questions from council members who also reminded him and the administration of Mayor A C Wharton Jr. that council approval of any purchase was necessary.

According to city Chief Administrative Officer George Little, the division of Housing and Community Development and the Memphis Housing Authority, both headed by Lipscomb, also would move to the office building.

Police brass currently are located in the Criminal Justice Center, owned by Shelby County government. Wharton and Armstrong had talked last year, and Wharton in earlier years, of renovating the circa-1910 police station on the northwest corner of Second Street and Adams Avenue as a headquarters possibility for MPD.

But Armstrong told the council that has since been ruled out. He cited a savings of $85,000 a month the city pays the county to rent space at the Criminal Justice Center. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has said in past discussions that the CJC arrangement is a long-term agreement and not as simple as a landlord-tenant relationship.

The Memphis Housing Authority owns its offices on Adams Avenue. The city owns the Housing and Community Development offices at 701 N. Main.

PROPERTY SALES 85 205 21,165
MORTGAGES 76 206 24,338
BUILDING PERMITS 183 321 43,755
BANKRUPTCIES 48 92 13,560