City Council Approves Colonial Conversion, Vintage Trolley Purchase

By Bill Dries

One of two golf courses at Colonial Country Club would give way to houses under a planned development approved Tuesday, Jan. 19, by the Memphis City Council.

The council approved a development that would turn the north course at Colonial into either a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and cottages or a mix of housing for senior citizens.

The 153 acres could see as many as 1,153 units of housing depending on which alternative developer Jim Russell chooses.

Colonial’s storied southern golf course, which once hosted the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic golf tournament, would remain as it is.

The southern course was where former President Gerald Ford hit a hole-in-one during the 1977 pro-am. During the tournament that year, Al Geiberger posted a round of 59, the first professional golfer to achieve such a score in a PGA Tour event.

CC Club Holdings announced in July it had hired Redwood Six Golf of Atlanta to help develop a plan for the club as well as improve the southern course.

Part of that plan is to use income generated from the residential development to retire Colonial’s debt and fund the golf course improvements.

The council also approved Tuesday plans by the Memphis Area Transit Authority to buy a vintage trolley for $950,000.


MATA president Ron Garrison met with some skepticism initially Tuesday when he described the trolley as “one of a kind.”


“I mean what difference does it make really?” council member Janis Fullilove asked.

It opens up the use of federal funds to renovate other trolleys that together could put the rail service, which was shut down completely in April 2014, back in operation.

“Rebuilding this trolley allows us to then use those monies to build in-house, which takes much, much longer, the rest of our trollies that need to be rebuilt,” Garrison explained. “It triples our money. For the price of this one trolley, we are getting four.”

“Sounds like a winner to me,” Fullilove responded.

Fullilove and council member Berlin Boyd clashed over a $10.8 million tree-trimming contract the council approved between Memphis Light Gas and Water Division and ABC Professional Tree Services.

Both council members have been critical of ABC’s use of out-of-town labor in the past including its use of workers from other countries.

But Boyd’s opposition to the contract changed after he went to an ABC work site and saw the work the crews do.

“I was absolutely amazed at the difficulties of the job,” Boyd said of the “dangerous” work.

Because the work is dangerous, ABC executives have argued the turnover rate in its workforce in Memphis and elsewhere is high – more than 100 percent.

“I understand why people don’t want to do the job,” Boyd said.

Fullilove said the company gave Boyd a “snow job.”

“He saw them climbing a tree and ‘oooh, that sure is hard,’” she said. “I’m not moved by that. And I’m not trying to be harsh – yes I am. Just what have you guys done to really try to get some local people?”

Boyd denied he had been fooled. “What it was was reality,” he told Fullilove. “I’m a council member who actually goes to the street and digs my hands in and get them dirty.”

In other action, the council approved $6.5 million in funding to begin work on moving the city’s General Services maintenance facilities to Lamar Avenue and Knight Arnold Road, the site of the old Walter Simmons housing project.

The move includes the city vacating its maintenance yard at 281 East Parkway in Overton Park.

The Overton Park yard has figured prominently in the ongoing debate over parking needs and traffic flow. It’s also been mentioned as a site for a museum and archive of the works of Memphis photographer William Eggleston.

No decision has been made on future use of the land.

General Services director Antonio Adams said his division should be out of Overton Park in approximately 18 months.

The council also approved $4.7 million in funding for a large retention basin at the site of the Raleigh Springs Mall and $3.1 million in state grant funds for redesign and reconstruction of the Plough Boulevard interchange at Winchester Road.

The council took back its approval earlier this month of a tractor-trailer yard at Brooks and McCorkle roads in Whitehaven.

Council member Edmund Ford Jr. urged the reconsideration to hear more from the facility’s would-be neighbors. Councilman Bill Morrison, who voted on the prevailing side, moved for the reconsideration. The council takes up the matter again at committee sessions next month.

The council approved a tire store at Hacks Cross Road and Misty Meadows Lane.

Tower Ventures withdrew its plans for a cell tower on Firestone Avenue in north Memphis.

And the council again delayed a vote on a hotel with retail at Front Street and Jackson Avenue, this time for four weeks.