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VOL. 131 | NO. 224 | Wednesday, November 9, 2016

City Hall City Leaders Prepare for Pre-Thanksgiving Town Hall on Pinch District Development

By Bill Dries

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A town hall meeting Nov. 22 on the city’s plan for redevelopment of the Pinch District Downtown should be the last session to gather public input, said the Memphis City Council member whose district includes the Pinch.

BERLIN BOYD

Berlin Boyd told a group of 20 citizens at a meeting Monday, Nov. 7, in Nutbush that the city is also awaiting word from the state on a plan to use Tourism Development Zone revenues for redevelopment of the area.

“There are a lot of moving parts. … Then we’ll try to proceed and move forward,” Boyd said. “There are a lot of loose ends that we’ve got to tie up. But I’m hoping and I’m being very optimistic that we will see something take place soon.”

The city wants the state to expand the uses of sales tax revenue captured in the Downtown TDZ to go toward more development.

A time and place for the Nov. 22 town hall meeting is expected to be announced this week.

Boyd had said in July that a council vote on the plan was possible within the next 90 days. But there have been delays.

JIM STRICKLAND

Looney Ricks Kiss, the architecture firm hired to come up with a proposed plan that includes a $1 billion physical expansion of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus, unveiled a plan in June that included new buildings, some as tall as 12 stories.

The tentative plan is being coordinated by the Downtown Memphis Commission, the city’s Housing and Community Development Division and the city-county Office of Planning and Development.

The mixed-use development coupling high rise offices with ground-level retail and restaurants is modeled after the Amazon.com city development, Amazon’s urban campus in Seattle.

At Monday’s Nutbush session, city Housing and Community Development director Paul Young talked in general terms.

“Our goal is to create a vibrant, walkable district connecting St. Jude with Bass Pro Shops, with the Convention Center, with all of the activity that’s happening in Uptown as well as the area near Carnes Elementary School,” Young said. “We see this project as not just about the Pinch, but really creating a new gateway for our city.”

St. Jude owns most of the land in the 10-block area and the LRK plan included Overton Avenue as a connector between Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid and the St. Jude campus to the east. It also included plans for a hotel facing Bass Pro Shops on the eastern border of the Pyramid.

Also at the Monday meeting in Nutbush, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he expects to make a decision “over the next few days” on a health care plan for retired city employees who are younger than 65.

The city is considering a private network as a way to continue providing city-subsidized health care to pre-65 retirees.

“The private network is the best way to save the pre-65 retirees,” Strickland said after the meeting. “The retirees will have to pay a higher deductible, but the premiums and the maximum pay will be about the same, actually sometimes they save money. …The call is, do we want to save the pre-65s or not.”

The pre-65 retirees are largely police officers and firefighters. The municipal unions representing both have been critical of the private exchange Strickland is considering.

The exchange is similar to one used by Ohio state government. The Memphis plan under consideration would subsidize retiree’s health care through health reimbursement accounts funded entirely by the city of Memphis that Strickland and his administration say would give retirees more options.

“I’ve listened to police officers and firefighters,” Strickland said, citing two pay raises for them during his first 10 months as mayor and the creation of a new P-3 rank for police officers.

“Frankly, we don’t want police officers and firefighters working until they are 65, chasing down criminals and climbing on ladders to get in houses,” he said. “They have to retire before they reach 65. They need that gap insurance until they get Medicare.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 128 339 21,916
MORTGAGES 76 240 16,657
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 14 31 1,535
BUILDING PERMITS 0 641 43,132
BANKRUPTCIES 36 136 6,853
BUSINESS LICENSES 4 27 3,196
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0