VOL. 131 | NO. 24 | Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Tentative Pinch Development Plan About to Emerge
By Bill Dries
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Bass Pro Shops have agreed on a tentative and general plan for future development of the Pinch District, according to Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd.
Boyd talked about the behind-the-scenes planning effort during the Tuesday, Feb. 2, council session as the body approved adding 120 days to the city’s moratorium on new building permits in the Pinch that began last year.
Boyd said the first draft plan developed for both entities by Looney Ricks Kiss is about to go public to get input from citizens in the near future.
The moratorium makes an exception for future St. Jude development.
Boyd also said the St. Jude expansion, which the hospital has talked about in general terms, saw leaders in St. Louis and California lobbying the research hospital to move the expansion out of Memphis.
Council members also voted Tuesday to form a task force to explore a separate benefits package for police and firefighters.
The resolution by councilman Edmund Ford Jr. is the first move toward a different set of benefits for both groups of employees as a recruitment tool to bolster the ranks of both departments.
Council members have discussed different benefits for public safety employees in the last year and a half. But the discussion has been a smaller and more sporadic part of the council’s larger debate and decisions to change the benefits of all city employees and retirees.
In other action Tuesday, a divided council approved a resolution backing pending state legislation to abolish the state-run Achievement School District.
The resolution sponsored by council member Martavius Jones, a former Shelby County Schools board member, passed on a 4-3 vote with council members Ford, Bill Morrison and Berlin Boyd recusing themselves. Council members Worth Morgan, Philip Spinosa and chairman Kemp Conrad abstained.
In other action, the council delayed for two weeks the entire Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division consent agenda after councilman Reid Hedgepeth complained that the utility had done nothing about streetlights that have been out on a street in his district for a month.
“If I can’t get streetlights turned on up here, there’s no point in me being on the council,” Hedgepeth said. “If it took me this long to get streetlights on in my business, I wouldn’t have a business.”
MLGW president Jerry Collins said an underground cable is the culprit and that such repairs take about five days to fix after a 30-day waiting period.
The council also delayed for two weeks a vote on a used car lot at the corner of Chelsea and Tunica in North Memphis.
The developers said the car lot would double as a mentoring program for children but didn’t have details in a flurry of questions from council members.
Councilman Joe Brown opposed the delay, saying the council was targeting the developers for racial reasons.
“You want to hold back Ferguson?” he asked at one point.
“We’ve heard three different variations of what will happen,” said Boyd, who proposed the delay to meet with the developers. “I’m trying to help.”