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VOL. 131 | NO. 116 | Friday, June 10, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: ServiceMaster Incentives, Muvico Memories and the Beale Street Cover

By Bill Dries

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It looks like the conversion of Peabody Place mall to the new headquarters of ServiceMaster is a $33.3 million job. That could be a running total depending on a PILOT amendment to come.

That’s the total I came up with with the help of some documents that have been a bit slow in coming to put some detail behind the public incentives pledged to bring the mall back to life.

We got a lot of our detail from the Center City Development Corp. document released Thursday ahead of that group meeting next week to vote on a $1 million development grant.

The documents also spilled the beans on the $12 million Belz Enterprises, the owners of the mall, will put up and $14.8 million ServiceMaster will put up.

There is another $5.5 million that came in Thursday in state FastTrack grant funding approved by the State Funding Board in Nashville. It appeared on the board’s agenda there as “to be announced.”

The new headquarters is expected to be ready in February 2018.

If your driven by the mall since last week’s announcement, you know that there is already a lot of work going on from sandblasting of the exterior to taking out the railing inside and replacing some glass.

Hitting the streets Friday is the cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News, about ServiceMaster’s decision. This is a story with a lot of different parts to it and there was plenty to write about. Some of which we will be covering later.

For now though the cover story talks about what this means for the Downtown office market, the one part of the Downtown economy that has really struggled compared to residential development.

But it’s not a head-to-head competition for class A office space with Poplar and Ridgeway, the capital of class A.

ServiceMaster’s plans include an innovation incubator and what amounts to a campus in the shadow of the old Peabody Place clock tower. And it's a conversion of retail -- frequently the turf of mega-churches.

And the search for a new headquarters follows about three years of turmoil within ServiceMaster that made this whole story pretty unlikely not too long ago.

Still waiting to hear if the clock tower stays and if it even works.

When journalists get way too serious about what they do – and you know they are getting there when they refer to themselves as journalists instead of reporters – they will downplay some of the really fun parts of this job.

Those fun parts include poking around in abandoned places like the Muvico movie theater and other parts of a dormant shopping mall.

Our photographer, Andrew Breig, did some extensive exploration in this regard and you can see the results in the art that makes our cover story pop. The on-line version offers more opportunities to use more of his pictures of the mall as it was at the outset of all of the work to come.

Muvico was way too many screens to be viable. Just look at what Malco, which knows the market much better, is doing further south at Central Station. It is five screens.

Nevertheless, Muvico’s theater will be remembered fondly for generations to come despite its doomed business plan and impracticality.

This is the stuff of Memphis legends – too much to last very long but glorious in its short time with us.

I found myself scanning the pictures of the old Muvico area for remnants of the railroad décor that dominated the theaters and the hallways to the theaters.

Andrew did the mall spelunking duties on this. So I am still able to dream that the electric chair in Jillian’s is still in its original place with nothing but rubble and ruin around it.

A block away on Beale Street this will be an interesting weekend. The cover charge for Saturday night after 10 p.m. is back after a controversial two-week run in 2014.

You will see some other measures aimed more directly at security in the district as well on Saturday.

This is a plan with other moving parts that was under discussion before last Saturday night’s Downtown rampage is which Memphis Police Officer Verdell Smith was killed and three people were shot and wounded.

The rampage ended at Beale Street’s key intersection but the issues driving the security measures really have very little to do with that.

The discussions began when the district’s peak season opened in May to something merchants have seen before – stampedes and YouTube worthy fights usually between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Saturday.

Downtown Memphis Commission president Terence Patterson said Thursday the behavior is time specific and that’s what the measures are aimed at.

He also said he will stay open to reaction and look at results in determining whether the measures stay or go.

Carver High School's last graduating class graduated last month – before the Shelby County Schools board voted Thursday to close the south Memphis school for good. And there is some discussion about the school board revisiting its decision last month to give Northside High School one more school year before it closes.

While the Tennessee Legislature is in summer study committee mode, some Republicans are working to revive Insure Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam’s negotiated Medicaid expansion. This is a teaming of Republican politicos and the Tennessee Hospital Association, which is one of the most powerful and perennial lobbying forces in the capital.

Haslam was in Memphis Thursday for several events. When you are the Governor, at some point during your day on the road – usually several points – you take questions from the press and they start out about the event at hand but then move to other topics.

One of those other topics Thursday was a rumor that Haslam is on some kind of list of possible vice presidential running mates for presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Haslam quickly said he couldn’t image any circumstances that would find his name on any “serious” list.

Haslam was a vocal supporter of Marco Rubio in the Republican Presidential primaries before Rubio dropped out – Haslam even emphasizing his support of Rubio as Trump campaigned in Millington earlier this year.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am a fan of good maps. There is a new map of the abundant public art in Overton Square done by Memphis College of Art students.

The students are also learning about the strategy of public art in which location is just as important and even influences what the art is.

There are 13 elements of public art on the map and some of them were there before the square's revival.

Don Wade’s Press Box column on the three-point line. The NBA Finals sure do take a long time to become final.

Meanwhile, former U of M quarterback Paxton Lynch signed a $9.5 million deal Thursday with the Denver Broncos.

On the Grizzlies front, Fizdale hires two coaches.

Further down in Digest, the list of the groups that have taken inspection tours of the Mid-South Coliseum this week. Some familiar, some not. Some local, some not.


More on Thursday’s debut of the Lenovo smartphone and its use of Google’s Project Tango.

There’s now a long line to get into the FAA program that is supposed to get you through the TSA gauntlet faster.

And a critical Inspector General’s report on how long it takes the FDA to get tainted food out of stores. This is an issue that U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has been working on.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396