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VOL. 9 | NO. 7 | Saturday, February 13, 2016

Daily Digest

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Best Buy Raises All-Time High for St. Jude

Electronics retailer Best Buy celebrated having raised an all-time high of $10.2 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a technology-focused event for patients this week.

ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Best Buy executives and its local Geek Squad agents hosted the event Wednesday, Feb. 10, designed to spark patients’ imaginations through things like Star Wars-themed coding activity and other hands-on technology experiences.

The importance of St. Jude’s funding partners like Best Buy is a function of the fact that 75 percent of St. Jude’s funding – it will cost nearly $1 billion to run the hospital this year – comes from public contributions.

Best Buy launched the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign in stores in 2013 and is now the campaign’s second-largest fundraising retailer.

Funds raised come from Best Buy customers who donate to St. Jude during the holiday season to support the St. Jude mission of finding cures and saving children.

– Andy Meek

Early Voting Opens With More Than 800 Ballots

Absentee and early voting in Shelby County in advance of the March 1 presidential primary election day topped 800 ballots by the end of the first day of the period.

Most of the early votes – 645 of 822 – were absentee ballots at area nursing homes cast before the Wednesday, Feb. 10, first day of the voting period.

Another 177 citizens voted early on Wednesday including 79 who voted at the Shelby County Office Building Downtown.

That is the only early voting location until Monday when the balloting expands to 20 additional sites across Shelby County.

The Democratic and Republican presidential primaries top the short ballot, which also includes an uncontested one-candidate Republican primary for Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk and a two-candidate Democratic primary for clerk.

Early voting runs through Feb. 25.

– Bill Dries

Honeywell Gets MLGW Smart Meter Contract

Honeywell has been selected by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to install 1 million Elster Smart Meters over the next five years.

Elster was acquired by Honeywell in December.

The installation of the meters in MLGW’s service area is a $200 million project that expands on an earlier limited use of the meters, which do not have to be read manually.

– Bill Dries

276-Unit Cordova Apartments Sell for $29.2M

The 276-unit Orleans at Walnut Grove apartment community has sold for $29.2 million.

PC Orleans LLC, an entity of Provo, Utah-based investment firm Peak Capital Partners, paid an equivalent of $105,731 per unit to buy the property at 317 Royal Chartres Square E. from Orleans Apartment Community LLC, according to a Feb. 4 warranty deed.

Wes Misenhelter, managing principal of Orleans Apartment Community, developed the Orleans at Walnut Grove in two phases – 180 units completed in 2012, followed by 96 units in 2013. The Class A community is situated on roughly 18 acres north of Walnut Grove Road, between Gray’s Creek and Houston Levee Road, with amenities that include a 20-acre lake, screened-in patios and a saltwater pool with palm trees and cooking area.

The Shelby County Assessor’s 2015 appraisal of the two-parcel community totals $24.8 million.

In conjunction with the purchase, PC Orleans LLC assumed a $22.2 million loan through Transamerica Pacific Insurance Co.

Peak Capital Partners and its affiliates own and manage multifamily properties in growth markets in the U.S., with assets that span conventional, affordable and student apartments.

– Kate Simone

Average MEM Airfare Continues to Drop

The price of airfare tickets continues to fall at the Memphis International Airport.

According to third quarter 2015 data from the Department of Transportation, the average airfare cost at MEM came in at $396.17. That’s a 5.4 percent decrease from the second quarter, when the average airfare was $418.70, and a 13.2 percent decrease from third quarter 2014, when it was $456.46.

Average airfare at MEM has now dropped more than $100 since 2012, when tickets peaked at almost $540.

– Madeline Faber

VIA Productions Acquires Beale Street Studios

Memphis-based VIA Productions is moving forward with a plan to increase its presence in the Mid-South via the acquisition of Beale Street Studios, a full-service production studio that’s also giving VIA its new headquarters.

As part of the acquisition, VIA will move from its location on Forest Hill-Irene Road to the current home of Beale Street Studios, 526 Beale St. Beale Street Studios principal Stewart Holmes, with a new role of director of photography, said the move is a natural next step for his firm, and it increases VIA’s total number of employees to 23.

VIA originally was founded to make sports documentary films. It’s since expanded to be a full-service video production company

– Andy Meek

Moore Named SCS General Counsel

Attorney Rodney Moore is the new general counsel and chief legal officer for Shelby County Schools.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson announced Moore’s appointment Tuesday, Feb. 9, to the position.

He also said Moore will handle the lawsuit SCS filed against the state of Tennessee last year over the state’s failure to fully fund the Basic Education Program 2.0 formula for state funding of local school districts.

Moore is a former president of the National Bar Association and most recently served as general counsel to East Side Union High School District in California’s Silicon Valley as well as general counsel for Atlanta Public Schools. He is also a former partner of the Atlanta office of the Baker Donelson law firm.

– Bill Dries

Rhodes Promotes Cleanthes to Athletic Director

Jeff Cleanthes, assistant athletic director and head baseball coach at Rhodes College, has been named the school’s new director of athletics, effective in March.

Cleanthes came to Rhodes in 2003 from Keuka College in Keuka Park, N.Y., where he was the head baseball coach. During his tenure at Rhodes, the baseball program has had success, including consistently ranking in the top 30 in Division III; winning the Southern Athletic Association conference; competing in the NCAA tournament; and placing players on the academic conference honor roll, as well as earning All-American honors.

He has also initiated two major fundraising efforts – one in 2008 to add a grandstand, press box, new dugouts, warning track and bullpens to the baseball complex, and the other in 2011 to renovate storage space into a locker room and baseball offices behind the first base dugout. In 2008, Cleanthes received Rhodes’ Outstanding Administrator Award.

Cleanthes, who will continue to coach through the 2016-2017 season, succeeds Mike Clary. Clary announced his retirement as Rhodes’ athletics director in December after leading the program for 26 years.

– Don Wade

Roadrunner Transportation Expands in Memphis

Wisconsin-based Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc. is expanding its operations in Memphis.

The logistics company says it will now operate its own facility “to add immediate and substantial capacity, while also improving efficiency and service levels by providing direct service to customers in this market.”

Roadrunner had gained a foothold in Memphis by working with an established agent. Now, they’re going to run their own operations in the market. Currently Roadrunner is located in an Oakhaven warehouse at 3845 Crowfarn Drive.

The new Memphis facility is one of several changes to Roadrunner’s service. It also introduced an optional premium service with guaranteed delivery in select major-metro markets and moved into newly constructed facilities in Houston and Dallas.

– Madeline Faber

Soulsville Seniors All Accepted to College

For a fifth consecutive year, all of Soulsville Charter School’s seniors have been accepted into colleges and universities.

The school – which started in 2005 with 60 sixth-graders and graduated its first seniors in 2012 – says this year’s graduating class is its largest ever. It’s also the earliest date for all students to be accepted.

“Some students will choose four year, others will choose two year, some may choose trade school, and some might choose military,” said TSCS high school director Ashley Shores, “but getting 100 percent of our students to the place where they have the option to attend college is one of our goals, and we have reached that much sooner this year than ever before.”

The Soulsville Charter School, a program of the Memphis-based nonprofit Soulsville Foundation, currently serves 625 students in grades 6-12.

– Kate Simone

Commission OKs Contract For Greenline Extension

Shelby County Commissioners approved a $163,400 contract Monday, Feb. 8, for the design of a part of the Shelby Farms Greenline extension.

The design work by Powers Hill Design will be on a two-mile section from the TVA substation on Lenow Road to the Cordova Train Station, which will be the eastern end of the greenline once the four-mile extension from Shelby Farms is complete.

Commissioners also approved six grants to local nonprofits totaling $99,000. The grants are from a fund of $1.3 million the commission set aside at the start of the current fiscal year, with each commissioner allotted $100,000.

Those grants have to be approved by the commission. Commissioners can and frequently do pool parts of their grant allocations for a single organization.

The nonprofits awarded grants Monday are Rise Foundation Inc., New Ballet Ensemble, Cooper-Young Business Association, Power Center Community Development Corp., Pinky Promise International and Raleigh Community Council.

Including the six grants approved Monday, the commission has given $810,000 to 37 organizations since creating the fund.

Commissioners also delayed a vote on a state grant that would fund a hormonal therapy pilot program related to a synthetic hormone used to prevent preterm delivery.

– Bill Dries

St. Jude Sells Two Homes To United Housing

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has sold two adjacent single-family homes in the University of Memphis area.

Both properties were purchased by United Housing Inc., a nonprofit provider of affordable housing, according to separate Feb. 2 warranty deeds.

The health care giant sold the 864-square-foot home at 3271 Seminole Road for $34,300 and the 735-square-foot home at 3275 Seminole for $31,000. The homes each sit on 0.2 acres, and the sales price equals the most recent Shelby County Assessor appraisal.

St. Jude doesn't own any of the surrounding parcels, according to the most recent data from the Shelby County Register of Deeds.

– Madeline Faber

I Escaped Memphis to Open Feb. 12

I Escaped Memphis is the latest escape room provider in the Memphis area.

Located in a 2,400-square-foot bay at 5707 Quince Road, the business lays out a real-life escape room game where people need to complete puzzles against the clock to find their way out.

The grand opening is Friday, Feb. 12.

If you want to try to escape a room in Midtown, see Broad Escape Rooms, which opened this month with two themed rooms inside the Rec Room arcade. In addition to the Rec Room space at 3000 Broad Ave., Broad Escape Rooms plans to open a permanent location in May on Broad Ave. next to Relevant Roasters.

– Madeline Faber

Familiar Restaurant Brand is Making a Return

Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits might be back in Memphis again soon.

The brand is starting to show up again in the Southeast, after struggling through ownership changes and financial missteps then closing all of its company-owned stores and filing for bankruptcy in 2010.

The company has signed new franchise deals in Atlanta, and within the next five years, the company expects to add 100 new restaurants throughout Mrs. Winner’s southeastern core markets. It’s seeking franchise partners in metropolitan Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, Chattanooga and other areas throughout Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Virginia.

– Andy Meek

UTHSC Opens Pro Bono Pediatric Clinic

The new Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center, a pro bono pediatric clinic providing occupational therapy services to children and their families who are uninsured or underinsured, has opened its doors on the campus of the UT Health Science Center.

It’s named in honor of Stevens, who had just started occupational therapy school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center when she died suddenly in January 2015 at age 21. Stevens’ parents wanted to honor her memory, so they approached her instructors about starting a scholarship in their daughter’s name. Instead, the idea for a therapy center emerged.

It’s managed and staffed primarily by occupational therapy students as volunteers. Under the supervision of UTHSC faculty, the center will provide developmental screenings, evaluations and occupational therapy treatment for children, as well as parenting education classes, among other services.

– Andy Meek

West Cancer Intros New Therapy

The West Cancer Center has introduced a new non-invasive therapy for treating brain cancer.

The Optune is a portable device that uses low-intensity electric fields to inhibit cancer cell replication, which kills those cells. West Cancer Center says it’s the first FDA-approved therapy in more than a decade to show a significant increase in overall survival rates for newly diagnosed adult Glioblastoma Multiforme patients.

With word of the new treatment also comes an announcement that West Cancer Center is collaborating with Semmes Murphey Clinic PC to launch West Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Neuro-Oncology Program. The program will be led by West Cancer Center medical oncologist Dr. Manjari Pandey; West Cancer Center director of radiation oncology Dr. Matthew Ballo; and Semmes Murphey neurosurgeons Drs. Jeff Sorenson and Madison Michael.

A key focus for the Comprehensive Neuro-Oncology Program will be investigative research and improvement of care for GBM through Optune therapy.

– Andy Meek

Artspace Pushes Back Groundbreaking

The South Main Artspace Lofts are in the final stretch of fundraising with $80,000 left to close the gap on the $12.9 million project.

At a town hall meeting held earlier this month, the Artspace developers presented adjusted timelines for the affordable housing development. If Artspace meets its goal, construction could start in early May with move-in by May 2017. Previous timelines put groundbreaking at early February.

Artspace will have to raise the funds by March to qualify for a $500,000 matching grant donated by a local philanthropist.

– Madeline Faber

Wal-Mart Expanding Chef Jenn Food Offerings

Memphis resident Jennifer McCullough, aka Chef Jenn, is continuing to expand her branded gourmet food choices in Wal-Mart stores.

McCullough got her start developing dishes using family recipes and fresh ingredients in her home kitchen in Memphis, while catering dinners and events. Chef Jenn is now a certified women-owned company featuring products prepared and packaged in the United States; go to chefjenn.com to learn more about seafood sustainability.

The new frozen food Chef Jenn offerings at Wal-Mart include seafood mac & cheese and shrimp and grits, and they’ll be available in stores spanning 17 states.

– Don Wade

Varsity Spirit, ESPN to Build Cheer Venue in Orlando

Memphis-based Varsity Spirit is teaming up with ESPN Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort to break ground on a new state-of-the-art cheerleading and dance team competition venue.

Varsity Spirit is recognized as a top-tier cheerleading organization.

The venue is being billed as the first in the world specifically designed for cheerleading and dance team competitions and will include a flexible design for one large competition space that can be set up for as many as four competition areas. Additional areas are being tailored for warm up and practice, along with areas for judges and officials.

With the ability to seat more than 8,000 guests, plus performance and warm-up space, the new multi-use sports and entertainment venue will also have the ability to host six regulation basketball courts, six regulation volleyball courts and concert configurations. There will be concessions throughout the building, and an additional box office and entry to the complex.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Varsity Spirit will continue to host well-known cheerleading events at the complex, including Varsity Spirit’s annual National High School Cheerleading Championships. This event draws more than 650 teams from more than 30 states. Winning a white satin National Champion jacket is seen as the pinnacle of success for thousands of cheerleaders from across the country.

Construction is slated to begin in February 2016, and is expected to be complete by mid-2017.

– Don Wade

Holiday Art Sale Returns To Memphis College of Art

The annual Holiday Bazaar art sale returns to Memphis College of Art this fall.

The 66th Annual Holiday Bazaar is set to take place Nov. 18-19 in Rust Hall, at 1930 Poplar Ave. in Overton Park.

The event has drawn thousands of people to the college’s campus since its inception in 1949, when the college was still known as the Memphis Academy of Arts and housed in the historic James Lee House. Eventually the bazaar moved with the college in the 1950s to its current site in Overton Park.

After 65 years of staging the art sale, the college placed the event on a brief hiatus for 2015 so faculty and staff could reinvigorate the event for future years. One change coming is that a faculty committee will jury artwork submissions.

In addition to supporting local artists in the MCA community, a portion of the proceeds from each sale will also benefit the college’s scholarship fund, which gives out nearly $5 million in scholarships each year.

– Andy Meek

State Announces HSBC Mortgage Settlement

The state of Tennessee is part of a $470 million settlement announced Friday, Feb. 5, with HSBC, a mortgage lender and servicer. Tennessee is one of 49 states as well as the District of Columbia that sued HSBC over alleged mortgage and foreclosure abuses. The Tennessee part of the settlement affects 2,600 borrowers who are eligible for payments through a national fund of $59.3 million.

Those eligible are borrowers whose loans were serviced by HSBC and lost their homes to foreclosure from Jan. 1, 2008, to the end of 2012. Those borrowers will be contacted about the qualifications for payments.

As part of the settlement HSBC will change how it services mortgage loans and handles foreclosures. The settlement also requires HSBC to take steps to provide more accurate information in federal bankruptcy court filings.

Additional measures include requiring the bank to evaluate homeowners more accurately and in the process make foreclosure a last resort. Homeowners also have the right to appeal denials and there is to be a single point of contact for borrowers seeking information about the status of their loans.

An independent monitor will oversee the agreement for a year to guarantee compliance. And HSBC could still be sued by individual borrowers, and state and federal authorities could still pursue criminal charges.

– Bill Dries

ArtsMemphis Joins National Economic Impact Study

As one of Tennessee’s leading arts organizations, ArtsMemphis will participate in a national study designed to reveal how nonprofit and cultural organizations impact the local economy.

In partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission and Americans for the Arts, ArtsMemphis will spearhead the local effort to collect data from nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that will measure the impact of arts and culture spending on local jobs, income paid to local residents and revenue generated to local and state governments.

“This study will highlight the critical role that the arts play in our community. Arts organizations are not only an engine of cultural vitality, they’re also a huge economic driver,” said Elizabeth Rouse, president and CEO of ArtsMemphis. “It’s time people realize that the nonprofit arts sector is serious business.”

ArtsMemphis, in conjunction with AFTA, will conduct the local portion of the national research study, entitled Arts & Economic Prosperity 5. The process will include collecting surveys from attendees at arts and cultural events. Previous national studies have shown that people who attend arts events spend on average $24.60 per person per event in addition to the cost of admission.

Studies have also shown that, on average, 32 percent of people attending arts events travel from another city or county and spend nearly $40 per person at each event. Research for the study will be collected throughout 2016. The results will be released in June 2017.

– Don Wade

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 86 374 7,749
MORTGAGES 89 414 9,199
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 9 52 1,358
BUILDING PERMITS 197 1,007 16,607
BANKRUPTCIES 45 279 5,406
BUSINESS LICENSES 28 154 2,948
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 139 3,250
MARRIAGE LICENSES 30 128 1,688

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