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VOL. 8 | NO. 43 | Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Tax Breaks Attract Grocers to Memphis Food Deserts

By Madeline Faber

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Two of Memphis’ prominent food deserts are on the mend with possible tax breaks to attract grocery stores.

Years in the making, the Binghampton Gateway is finally on the way with the help of EDGE’s new Community Builder PILOT.

(Courtesy of EDGE)

Binghampton and Uptown are set to receive Community Builder PILOTs, a new payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive granted by the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine.

This will be the inaugural class of the PILOT program, which is specially tailored to aid community development groups looking to take on larger projects.

“A lot of these neighborhood-level, and particularly projects conducted in inner-city neighborhoods, are very thin,” said Reid Dulberger, EDGE president and CEO. “They’re difficult to do, the numbers are difficult to get together, so you end up piecing together the financing from a variety of different sources in order to make the project hopefully work.”

As a tool, the PILOT would attract further financing and tenant commitments. Like traditional PILOT incentives, EDGE holds the title to the property and leases it back to the recipients at a 75 percent reduction in city and county property taxes for a 15-year period.

“This is a long-term vision for both groups, but again we know how difficult it is,” Dulberger said. “As important and catalytic as grocery stores can be to a neighborhood, they are low-margin operations. Anything that we can do to help the operating costs for these facilities makes it more likely that they will be able to put the projects together.”

With the Binghampton Gateway in the works for several years, the Community Builder PILOT is the silver bullet that the Binghampton Development Corp. needs to move forward with its commercial center at the corner of Tillman Street and Sam Cooper Boulevard.

The $6.8 million project will create 55 jobs.

Plans call for a 16,325-square-foot value grocery store; a 10,000-square-foot dollar store and 7,240 square feet of additional retail space across seven bays designed to house local retailers.

“As important and catalytic as grocery stores can be to a neighborhood, they are low-margin operations.”

–Reid Dulberger
Economic Development Growth Engine

“If they secure this, there is a second phase, a longer-term vision that would include additional retail along the southern side of the site,” Dulberger added.

Across town, the Uptown Center is on its way to becoming the commercial heart of Downtown’s north end.

If granted, the Community Builder PILOT will go toward a $4.8 million revamp of the former Chism Trail Grocery at 544 Jackson Ave.

The 25,900-square foot grocery store is just one piece of a larger Uptown planned development.

The area between Mills Avenue, Seventh Street, A.W. Willis Avenue and Dunscomb Place calls for 20 townhouses, two multistory office/retail parcels at 21,800 square feet and 17,000 square feet, a 14,748-square-foot pharmacy, and plenty of streetscape improvements and parking.

In addition to the abandoned Chism Trail grocery, the property also contains a functioning SunTrust Bank.

The commercial center would be orchestrated by the Memphis Housing Authority and carried out by Memphis Land Bank-Uptown, a partnership between Belz Enterprises and Henry Turley Co.

“It’s the anchor; it’s the catalyst. It’s the entity that creates the traffic flow and the pedestrian flow that will feed the other projects, all of which combined will enhance the quality of life for the neighborhood,” Dulberger said of the proposed grocery. “If we’re able to pull this off, and if MLB is able to pull this off, we really think that it will spur additional private-sector redevelopment in the Uptown area,” he added.

The applications, which were received Oct. 16, are expected to be approved at EDGE’s board meeting Wednesday, Oct. 21.

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