VOL. 130 | NO. 34 | Thursday, February 19, 2015
Raleigh Springs Mall Tests Town Center Concept
By Bill Dries
The idea that a declining shopping mall can be redeveloped and reinvigorated as a “town center” with local government offices as a catalyst for private developers appears to be on its way to a meeting with reality.
The city has allocated $23.7 million to redevelop the Raleigh Springs Mall as a town center that will include a public library, a Memphis Police traffic precinct and the relocated Old Allen police precinct. City leaders hope the public facilities will be a catalyst for private development and investment.
“We’re trying to move forward as soon as possible,” City Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb said Tuesday, Feb. 17, of city plans for Raleigh Springs Mall.
He also talked of the city approaching various private developers and tenants about joining a development that is still partially owned by Raleigh Mall LLC, an out of state company that has a Wilmington, Del., tax address.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said this month that his administration had begun eminent domain proceedings against the owners to begin partial demolition. And he said the city has reached settlements with private owners of out parcels on the mall site.
Memphis City Council members approved $23.7 million in capital funding Tuesday to begin long-held plans to move city government facilities onto the Raleigh Springs Mall property, including a new Raleigh branch public library, and a new Memphis Police traffic precinct as well as a new area precinct for cops currently stationed at the Old Allen precinct.
The council approved another $7.5 million to the project in late 2013 and the city expects to get $6.2 million from selling the property where the current police precincts are as well as the existing library.
According to the same city documents, the total also includes what the city would make from selling a parcel of land the city bought at the northwest corner of Austin Peay Highway and Yale Road that it had planned to use for various government offices over several years, including the traffic precinct.
The circa 1971 mall, the second oldest in the city after Whitehaven’s Southland Mall, is at the southeast corner of Austin Peay and Yale. Unlike Southland Mall, Raleigh Springs Mall is showing its age and the effects of major retailers leaving the mall and the area.
“There are projects that come to this council that we consider crucial to the city,” said council member Bill Morrison, whose district includes Raleigh and who pushed for the city’s involvement going back to the administration of Mayor Willie Herenton. “This is crucial to Raleigh as well as the city. This is crucial to sending a message that we are not giving up – that we are in a fight.”
A group of 60 Raleigh residents showed up for the council vote.
“It’s about really revitalizing a community – a community that has seen things beyond its control,” said Ray Jones, a business owner in the area. “This is the opportunity to take a community that is at a tipping point and turn it in the right direction.”
The city hopes to extend the concept with the same strategy at Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven and the Soulsville Town Center in South Memphis.
In other action Tuesday, council members also approved on the second of three readings an ordinance creating a Beale Street Tourism Development Authority to guide future plans for the entertainment district.
And the council delayed for two weeks a vote on a used car lot at 1780 Getwell Road near Mallory in South Memphis.