VOL. 131 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 1, 2016
Last Word: Out With the Old, In With The River
By Bill Dries
We end 2015 with an eye on the Mississippi River as the city marks the New Year with three major New Year’s Eve outdoor celebrations – one on Beale Street, another in the newly-awakened Overton Square and yet another in the Broad Avenue Arts District.
Two come with lots of memories of past New Year’s eves – with soon-to-be memories.
Overton Square’s comeback as a theater district has been a big story of the last two years.
But Beale Street at the end of 2015 is an institution that has also seen a lot of change in the last year with the move to a Beale Street Tourism Development Authority at year’s end.
Broad is a different story with a different context. The context is a diversified Memphis whose crowd is likely to be at least slightly more local than the mix in Overton Square and on Beale Street.
It's example could very well show us the path to a New Year's eve with public celebrations from Whitehaven to Frayser.
As for the river, Second Street between Whitney and Mud Island Drive will be barricaded and closed starting at 7 a.m. Monday morning because of high water.
The area, including the access road to the Stiles Water Treatment Plant, is bottom land that floods on a regular basis.
As they did four years ago, those planners and leaders at the Shelby County Office of Preparedness are using GIS maps produced by the University of Memphis to anticipate specifically where the high water is likely to go once the high water upriver reaches Memphis.
The mapping worked well in the 2011 flooding which saw the river at Memphis reach the second highest level ever recorded, the highest being the 1937 flooding. High water on the Mississippi also means high water levels in the tributaries in Shelby County that feed the Mississippi – the Loosahatchie, Nonconnah and Wolf.
You can take a look at the ZIP Code maps the county is using at www.staysafeshelby.us.
The river is still expected to crest at around 43 feet on January 9. The crest four years ago was 48.3 feet on the river gauge.
And we hate to keep harping on this but given our experience in 2011 with flooding reports remember, images on television may appear larger than they really are.
Politically, New Year’s Day will be busy with outgoing Memphis City Council member Myron Lowery holding his 25th annual Prayer Breakfast on the first day in 25 years that he has not been an elected official.
About an hour after that event near Memphis International Airport wraps up, Mayor-elect Jim Strickland becomes Mayor in a noon ceremony at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts that is free and open to the public.
As a backdrop for that, we review Strickland’s upset of incumbent Mayor A C Wharton in the October city elections and what it means for Strickland.
An end of year look at the city's corporations in the Fortune 500.
The AutoZone Liberty Bowl game Saturday between Arkansas and Kansas State is a sell-out. The last time that happened was six years ago when the Razorbacks were in the Liberty Bowl.
This time, the city and Memphis Area Transit Authority have shuttle buses running from several locations to ease the traffic and parking crunch expected in the Fairgrounds area.
The real estate beat stays hot through the last day of 2015 with three big transactions coming in just before the parties started.
The first is a Downtown head turner. Tri-State Bank has sold its headquarters building on the prime Beale and Main corner to Belz Investco for $3 million.
This is the corner where South Main meets Beale in the not-too-distant future. The bank has had lots of offers over the years and don't be surprised if you start hearing more about the other corner where Memphis Light Gas and Water Division currently has its headquarters.
Planners and design consultants have long questioned why City Hall ever allowed that prime piece of real estate to be occupied by an office building for the city's utility company and with a design that seems more suburban than urban.
The old Mall of Memphis property is being sold to a truck dealership, the owners of TAG Truck Centers.
It is an interesting turn of events for the property that came to symbolize the ongoing local debate about tax abatements and economic development incentives – specifically PILOTs – payments in lieu of taxes.
Johnson Development Associates sold the land three months after the EDGE board denied its request for a PILOT to build a spec development which would have been a precedent for the incentives.
When EDGE didn’t grant it, Johnson indicated it would likely sell. And TAG has bought with the promise of a development that will not be speculative.
It will be interesting to see if TAG goes for a PILOT in the year to come.
TAG has two facilities on Brooks Road which is the city’s freight trucking version of auto row. So we’ll watch in the coming year to see how TAG’s Mall of Memphis deal affects the competition there.
Clark Tower and the neighboring I-Bank Tower in East Memphis have the same owner and as a result plans that promise to be a start toward a concept that area merchants have been talking about for several years – a reworking of the entire area from the office buildings west to Mendenhall Road.
The discussion first surfaced several years ago when the Paradiso movie theater had a crowd problem that drew a police response. That prompted a deeper look at the layout of businesses in a commercial area that has grown without a whole lot of overall planning.
The best evidence of the growth without coordination is in the numerous curb cuts on the north side of Poplar Avenue and the twists and turns around parking barriers that it takes to get to the back of the property.
Increasingly our job efforts locally have become more of a match game – matching already skilled workers with existing jobs that employers have real problems filling. The problem is the old-fashioned cattle call style job fair just doesn’t do the job. Enter another solution called MOJO.
Our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard runs down what is in the hopper for the upcoming 2016 session of the Tennessee General Assembly. He predicts a quick election-year session ending in early April, possibly sooner.
Lots of good background here about the debate legislators are having about the Refugee Resettlement Program in Tennessee run through Catholic Charities and how tight its measures are.
There are also indications of some concerns about Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to fundamentally shift the responsibilities of the Board of Regents away from governing the University of Memphis and other non-University of Tennessee state colleges and universities.
There are early concerns that in the vacuum the UT system might wind up with a larger share of state funding for higher education.
Now that the Birmingham Bowl is done but the game ball apparently not yet returned by former Tiger Reggis Ball, U of M quarterback Paxton Lynch has made it official.
He will be entering the NFL draft. The scouting combine is February 23-29 in Indianapolis and the draft itself is April 28-30 in Chicago. That’s almost four months of off-season speculation. And don’t forget to add some time after that for “should haves” and “could haves.”
Don Wade has more on a comeback for Grit and Grind for a Grizzlies team giving “small ball” a try.
Now, where is my party hat? Of course, next to the life boat.