VOL. 131 | NO. 205 | Thursday, October 13, 2016
Last Word: Mud Island Round 3, Newsmakers Notes and North Midtown
By Bill Dries
Cue the organ. You know, the one from those old soap operas or radio dramas. And prepare for the latest episode of Island of Mud. When last we looked in on Mud Island River Park, the city had two finalists to redevelop all or a part of the southern half of the island that is really a peninsula.
But the new mayor was resolute that no city funding be used to leverage any kind of undertaking of this nature. (Organ swells briefly but dramatically.) RVC Outdoor Destinations pulled its proposal. And we left with the city and the Riverfront Development Corp. awaiting a change from the state that would allow Tourism Development Zone funds -- sales tax revenue -- to possibly be used to leverage a larger private investment in a remake of all or part of the park.
If that happens, there will be a third round of the RFP (requests for proposal) process (No organ swell necessary here because it is an RFP. But keep this chord going.) And Benny Lendermon of the RDC tell us there have been some other proposals in the interim and the third round would open up this process to new proposals as well as old.
RVC Outdoors CEO Andy Cates says he is done and has moved on and he won’t be back for a third round.
In our last episode… (Cut the organ music. We are on a different item.) We said that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam would probably name his appointees to the new board of the University of Memphis this week. He did that Wednesday – eight of the nine nominees for the independent board that begins running the affairs of the city’s largest institution of higher learning next year. This is subject to approval of the nominees by the Tennessee Legislature. Haslam’s choices come from the city’s largest and best known corporate entities and include some business leaders already involved with the life of the university and many are alumni. In that last group is Marvin Ellison, the CEO of J.C. Penney Co. who is turning around the 114-year old department store chain. He began his retail career as a security guard at a Target store here in Memphis.
Here is a February profile of Ellison from Fortune magazine.
Meanwhile, the president of Freed-Hardeman University is retiring effective June 1.
From our very first Newsmakers Seminar Tuesday at the Brooks, several points from the group we gathered together to talk about greenways and greenlines and parks and bicycles.
At Shelby Farms Park, the completion of the Heart of the Park improvements that Memphians can’t get enough of these days – even those who rarely go past the parkways – isn’t an ending, says Jen Andrews, director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. It gives the park a hub and the ability to pursue different challenges with revenues necessary to pursue those challenges as a nonprofit. She also said it is not up to the conservancy to determine how the areas on the edges of the park are development.
That doesn’t mean the conservancy isn’t paying attention to that.
And Tina Sullivan of the Overton Park Conservancy says it is good to talk about such issues.
John Zeanah of the Office of Planning and Development said the regional Greenprint plan he was part of putting together means that if everything on the busy map of the Greenprint is done, 78 percent of the people in this region will live within one mile of a Greenprint corridor.
There is a rule in journalism that explains why you don’t see a lot of crowing when a competing institution or reporter steps in it or unwittingly walks right into the spotlight of an issue they might cover.
The rule is invoked when those reporters and institutions watching remember all of the mistakes and misjudgments they’ve made in the past.
Do enough stories and you will have more than you want to admit.
Which brings us to “North Midtown” and its use by High Ground earlier this week in a feature on the murals on the Chelsea Avenue flood walls in what most of us consider to be North Memphis.
The renaming hit a nerve with those watching these efforts to bring new life to certain parts of the city long neglected when it comes to city or county capital funding for everything from street paving to parks to blight eradication.
This is part and parcel of a larger issue – gentrification. The concern is that as areas are redeveloped with new investment and new homeowners or renters – even a new customer base --it is at the expense of those who have already been living there through the neglect. Rents go up, prices for a cup of coffee at the corner place go up, there are new dos and don’ts for what you want to do in the way of home improvements or new standards requiring certain home improvements.
To some, renaming or rebranding North Memphis as North Midtown is proof positive of a motive to strip the area of its identity as if there was nothing there before and the area was waiting to be “discovered” – and on Columbus Day at that.
The Daily News used the term “North Midtown” in a 2010 story on an effort by Rhodes College and the Plough Foundation toward a revitalization plan for the Hollywood-Springdale area.
Like the mural effort, it was a term used by those involved in the effort.
It was about the same time we featured the same area in a cover story for The Memphis News on the Drug Market Intervention effort. No mention there of North Midtown or North Memphis. We stuck with Springdale to describe a very specific area.
So, after talking with our managing editor, Terry Hollahan, about this Wednesday, here is where we are on North Midtown and the use of the term.
We will refer to the general area as North Memphis, not to make a call on the larger issues involved but simply because that is what most Memphians know the area as including those who live and work and worship there. Read our stories on a specific area and we will use the specific name of that specific area.
We will also continue to report on the intersection of new development in areas with an existing identity.
If the effort to rebrand this particular area as North Midtown persists we will probably report on it as well. But it will be with an acknowledgement that there are different opinions on the use of the term. In other words, we won’t assume just because someone uses the term that it is accepted by all.
The northwest corner of Central and East Parkway has to be one of the best retail corners in the city. That explains why people continue to drive up outside what used to be the Kwik Shop Grill there even though it won’t reopen until later this month. When it does, it will be 901 Grille & Market from the same folks that created the two City Markets that began in 2010 Downtown on the Main Street Mall with the second opening last year in Cooper-Young. Sunny and Hamida Mandani also own Quench Wine and Spirits Downtown on Second Street between Union and Gayoso.
A look at the partial graduation rate information the state released this week and it shows mostly progress with rates up in most of our school system’s within Shelby County – a drop in the Achievement School District and in Millington’s school system.
But there are also some real differences from school system to school system. Each suburban school system – except Lakeland – has one high school and Shelby County Schools has 48.
We are still awaiting a full school-by-school breakdown for SCS. But among the 19 SCS high schools that posted graduation rates of 85 percent or better only three were conventional high schools without even an optional program. The rest were charters, optional schools and middle college high schools.
And Hamilton High School, for years a persistent problem for the school system, appears to be on the way up with a 24.4 point gain from what had been a 49.1 percent graduation rate the school year before.
In his View From The Hill column, Sam Stockard on how Democrats on Capitol Hill in Nashville are pursuing the Durham scandal as the November election day nears.
More complications for the Note 7 recall per Business Insider. FedEx announced Wednesday that some of its services will not ship the risky smartphones back to Samsung. And Reuters on Samsung’s plan – an elaborate fireproof box that still cannot be transported by air and blue gloves for handling the devices that have been known to burst into flames.
And AP looks at what this disaster says about us as consumers.
Another tech story while we are in the neighborhood: Amazon's for-pay streaming music service.
The Memphis Real Estate Recap includes word of the demolition of the Pizza Hut on Germantown Parkway to make way for a new Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steak Burgers, the chain’s entry into the Memphis market. The boutique hotel developers who are about to convert the Leader Federal bank building on Madison at B.B. King have closed on the Memphis College of Art location in South Main for another hotel and Green China in Germantown.