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VOL. 9 | NO. 19 | Saturday, May 7, 2016

Demolition Begins On Raleigh Springs Mall Property

By Bill Dries

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With the business end of a Volvo crawler excavator, Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison kicked off the start of demolition Saturday, May 7, at the Raleigh Springs Mall.

And Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland made clear his support of the mall property’s conversion into a “town center” featuring a new public library, a new Frayser-Raleigh police precinct and a new police traffic precinct.

Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison begins demolition on the Raleigh Springs Mall property, starting with an old Sears auto center. It's the first step toward the site’s conversion to a “town center” concept anchored by a new library and police station.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

Strickland was one of several hundred people who gathered on the parking lot by the old Sears auto center on the south end of the mall property “to celebrate knocking this blight down,” he told a cheering crowd.

“This is going to be a wonderful development,” Strickland added.

The city’s hope is that with the government offices, the area will draw some retail development. Campus plans include a one-mile walking trail, a skatepark and an 11-acre lake.

The city plans hit a hitch in court when the owners of the mall itself, Raleigh Mall RPS LLC, contested the city’s attempt to take their property through eminent domain proceedings.

Circuit Court Judge James Russell ruled in August that the city didn’t provide adequate public notice and the city is doing new public notices to be followed by another public hearing on the $23.7 million project by the Memphis Housing Authority and another council vote on the project the council had previously approved.

At the end of that process, Morrison said he hopes the city can formally break ground on the project in September with all of the mall structure being demolished.

Morrison said the LLC wants $6 million from the city for its two parcels. The city has offered $2.5 million as recently as Thursday which the owners rejected.

Morrison opposes going beyond $2.5 million because he said any increase would come out of funding for the project itself.

Before Morrison climbed into the cab of the excavator, he again criticized the owners of the mall itself.

“I want to be clear. My message is not only about Raleigh but about our city,” he said. “To the landlords who are out of town, the vacant landlords, the landlords that think they are going to come to our town and make it a slum, your days are over. … We’re going to get you out of our neighborhoods. We’re going to get your out of our communities. This is our home.”

The mall owners were early critics of Mayor A C Wharton’s plans for their property saying the city didn’t tell them of the plans and that publicity about the city plans was making it difficult for them to sign tenants for the mall.

Raleigh Springs Mall is one of three proposed town centers proposed during Wharton’s administration.

Like the mall property, all three plans rely on local government facilities as an anchor.

The Soulsville Town Center went into foreclosure last year and was bought by Tom Shadyac, a filmmaker-turned-University of Memphis professor who wants to convert it into a community-center concept called One Family Memphis.

The Southbrook Mall town center was to be part of a larger plan Wharton’s administration said it would develop for Whitehaven. The nonprofit that owns the mall wanted city funding for roof and HVAC repairs and at one point opposed the larger town center plans.

Wharton left office at the end of 2015 with no further movement on the Southbrook idea.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 105 193 8,028
MORTGAGES 120 239 9,024
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 5 1,133
BUILDING PERMITS 192 445 17,512
BANKRUPTCIES 27 69 5,228
BUSINESS LICENSES 25 60 3,442
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 30 2,298
MARRIAGE LICENSES 25 50 1,642