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VOL. 130 | NO. 81 | Monday, April 27, 2015

Midtown Momentum

Kroger, citing progress in Midtown, buys Washington Bottoms property

By Amos Maki

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Kroger Co., buoyed by the Crosstown Concourse development and increased investment in Midtown as a whole, has purchased properties associated with the long-dormant Washington Bottoms project at Poplar Avenue and Cleveland Street.

Kroger Co. has acquired 80 parcels totaling roughly 18.2 acres for $3.9 million. The properties are located in the Washington Bottoms neighborhood, near the Cleveland Street and Poplar Avenue intersection.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

A Kroger affiliate acquired 80 parcels totaling roughly 18.2 acres for $3.9 million. The parcels are located in an area east of Cleveland Street between Jefferson and Court Avenues, part of the Washington Bottoms neighborhood. The area is located across Poplar from an existing Kroger store and just blocks away from the ambitious Crosstown Concourse project.

“Kroger has purchased property near our Poplar-Cleveland store,” said Teresa Dickerson, public relations and community affairs manager for Kroger’s Delta Division. “With the addition of the (Crosstown Concourse) development we are excited about the future of this area and we are committed to the development of this area.”

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Kroger Limited Partnership I bought the properties from TN Poplar Avenue LLC, an affiliate of Trimont Real Estate Advisors, according to public records.

The properties Kroger bought are on Washington Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, North Watkins Street, Poplar Avenue, North McNeil Street and Court Avenue.

Dickerson said the grocery giant does not have immediate plans to develop the property and wanted to make sure that whatever is built there is appropriate for the neighborhood. Kroger recently invested $4 million remodeling its store at Poplar and Cleveland.

“Right now we don’t have any plans,” Dickerson said. “We care about the community and we are keeping our eyes on the land.”

“We have a store right there and we want to make sure the redevelopment of that area is great,” she said. “We’re excited about what is happening in that area.”

The site is approved for a mixed-use development.

In September 2013, TN Poplar Avenue LLC won approval from the Land Use Control Board to extend the planned development zoning on the site for an additional five years. TN Poplar Avenue LLC is a Delaware-based business operating in care of Atlanta-based Trimont Real Estate Advisors and also was registered with the state as an affiliate of Lehman Brothers Holdings.

Kroger has purchased properties in an area east of Cleveland Street between Jefferson and Court Avenues in Midtown Memphis. The area is located across Poplar from an existing Kroger store and just blocks away from the ambitious Crosstown Concourse.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“So, the owners of the (planned development) are marketing this project to potential tenants and are optimistic that they will be able to find key tenants and begin developing this project within the requested five-year time limit,” said an Office of Planning and Development staff report on the 2013 extension request.

The staff report also said the city was considering the site for a storm-water detention basin and a fire station. The city of Memphis helped kick-start the redevelopment of Overton Square by investing about $12 million in a three-story parking garage and detention basin.

“There are a number of variables for the future development of this land that cannot be fully addressed here, but the options range from a detention facility that is completely owned and maintained by the city, to a mixed operation that includes a publicly owned drainage facility below ground and a privately owned surface parking lot,” said the staff report.

Memphis Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lipscomb said last year that the city was working to revive the project.

When asked about the purchase Monday, April 27, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said he could not comment on Kroger’s possible plans for the site.

“Let’s put it this way: I had heard there was a purchaser interested in it who had the wherewithal to make it a much better site,” he said.

In 2008, Miami Beach, Fla.-based WSG Memphis LLC, a division of WSG Development Co., filed plans with OPD for the 28-acre site bounded roughly by Poplar, McNeil, Court and Cleveland for an ambitious redevelopment project.

Development plans called for a walkable “urban village,” including upscale residences, retail, office space, medical office space, a hotel and restaurants.

WSG spent several years working on the project, eventually assembling dozens of parcels of land in the area in 2007 for $12 million. WSG took out a $14 million construction loan through Lehman Brothers Holdings but the recession and economic downturn struck, killing the project in its tracks. Lehman Brothers Holdings then took control of the property after foreclosure in 2010.

The site was home to a mix of existing businesses, apartment buildings and low-income homes. After the project collapsed in 2008, the abandoned properties became a blighted eyesore, attracting squatters and criminals. In 2010, Lehman Brothers Holdings began demolishing the vacant buildings there following a series of arson fires.

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270