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VOL. 130 | NO. 192 | Friday, October 2, 2015

City Divisions To Relocate As Memphis Trims Its Footprint

By Madeline Faber

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The city of Memphis is trimming its footprint with plans to consolidate municipal departments in three buildings across the city.

The 33-acre property that used to be the Walter J. Simmons public housing complex could soon be home to a number of city departments. 

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The Donnelley J. Hill State Office Building in Civic Center Plaza soon will be home to several municipal organizations, including the Memphis Police Department, the division of Housing and Community Development and some human resources and law offices.

Montgomery Martin Contractors recently sent out a request for proposal regarding the building, which is at 170 N. Main St. near City Hall. O.T. Marshall Architects is the architect and CB Richard Ellis Memphis is doing project management.

In May, the Memphis City Council approved the city’s contract to purchase the building from the state of Tennessee for $1.5 million. All told, the project is costing $8.4 million, with $6.2 million going toward renovations and $680,000 to relocate city offices.

During earlier talks about the purchasing the building, the Memphis Housing Authority was named a possible tenant, but it appears that it will retain offices at 700 Adams Ave.

MPD administration would be the building’s biggest tenant and would leave its current headquarters at 201 Poplar Ave. Antonio Adams, director of the Division of General Services, said that while the Donnelley J. Hill rehabilitation is part of General Services’ operating and capital improvements budget, his department will not hold any offices there.

“The building would be under my control or domain,” he said. “I’ll be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the building, but I will not have any functions there.”

According to the city’s request for proposals, the construction work includes selective demolition, new interior floors, wall and ceiling finishes, new millwork, new locker rooms, new breakrooms, a new gymnasium, specialty equipment, new doors and frames, new walls, a new storefront and some limited site work.

Memphis’ operations and engineering departments could be consolidated in a municipal and industrial complex on the razed site of the Walter J. Simmons public housing development at Lamar Avenue and Knight Arnold Road, freeing up a coveted corner of Overton Park where one department is located.

While the 51 buildings of the housing complex were demolished last year, the site is still zoned for residential use. On Sept. 24, the city submitted its plan to the Board of Adjustment seeking a rules variance to construct a municipal/industrial facility.

According to the application, the property would be better suited to office, industrial and warehouse use because the residential zoning isn’t practical. The space is very narrow in width making housing undesirable, the north part of the site is encumbered by a flood zone, and residential developments in the area are on the decline and in poor condition.

According to the application, the 33-acre property near the Memphis International Airport would house several departments within the general services division, including Fleet Maintenance, Park Operations, Sign Shop and Traffic Markings, Fire Apparatus and Maintenance, Traffic Signals Maintenance, Property Maintenance, Construction Inspection and Material Testing Lab.

Consolidating the departments would free up valuable space across the city, namely the southeast corner of Overton Park that currently houses Property Maintenance. The Memphis Zoo has eyed the lot for additional parking, and it is also under consideration as the future home of a William Eggleston museum.

The historic Universal Life Insurance Co. building is soon to be the centralized site of the city’s minority business resources.

Self-Tucker Architects bought the building in 2006 for speculative development, and public partnerships have funded most of the $6.2 million rehabilitation project.

The largest tenant, coming in at 12,500 square feet, will be the city’s Renaissance Business and Economic Development Center, an arm of the Memphis Housing and Community Development department.

The 33,000-square-foot building, which is at the northeast corner of Danny Thomas Boulevard and Linden Avenue, will house several small-business resources, including the Memphis Area Minority Contractors Association, Contractor Assistance Program, Black Business Association, Tennessee Small Business Development Center and the Small Business Administration, among others.

The Memphis Office of Resources & Enterprise, which is currently housed in City Hall, will also relocate to the building.

“This is an important step in concentrating various elements of our minority business growth strategy under one roof so that we can leverage their strengths and increase their collective impact,” said Mayor A C Wharton.

PROPERTY SALES 105 193 8,028
MORTGAGES 120 239 9,024
BUILDING PERMITS 192 445 17,512
BANKRUPTCIES 27 69 5,228