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VOL. 131 | NO. 208 | Tuesday, October 18, 2016

City Council Vote to Focus On Highland Strip Project

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members vote Tuesday, Oct. 18, on an economic impact plan for the Highland Strip area that sets the stage for the tax increment financing district to finance infrastructure changes in the private development hot spot.

With the Highland Row development underway and Highland Strip to the south, the University Neighborhood District is set to become a tax increment financing zone.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day.

The TIF area collects an increment of the increase in property taxes paid in a specific area through the increase in property value and dedicates that amount to public infrastructure improvements.

In the case of the University Neighborhood District, the area is 601 parcels along and near Highland Avenue on the western border of the University of Memphis campus. The property tax increment comes to an estimated $83 million going back into the district over a 20-year period, according to Mike Keaney, president of the University Neighborhood Development Corporation.

The TIF money is held by the Economic Development Growth Engine – or EDGE – and disbursed by EDGE as needed.

Keaney told council members last month that the money will be “primarily focused on safety improvements, the roads and sidewalk improvements and a lot of infrastructure changes to make it a much more walkable area.”

“It’s already attracting a lot of developers,” Keaney said of the area between Central Avenue and Southern Avenue. “We would like to be able to go out and affirmatively recruit some developers we want in the area.”

That includes the area from Southern Avenue south to Park Avenue.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, whose administration backs the TIF and the accompanying plan termed the TIF a “shot of adrenaline.”

“The success of the university has overflowed onto Highland,” he said at the September council committee discussion. “What this does is it takes that success, that increase of property taxes and takes a portion of it and lets us expand that success all the way down to Park … where you don’t see the success you see on the north side of the tracks.”

University of Memphis president David Rudd said continued development along Highland with an emphasis on a more walkable environment is essential to the university’s growth. Rudd counts 2,500 students living on the U of M campus and almost that many living just beyond the borders of the campus in the area.

“We need to improve foot traffic in that region,” Rudd told the council.

“It probably is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of subsequent investment in that area,” he said of the TIF zone and development already underway including the Highland Row mixed use development and the Highland Strip retail area. “That is an essential priority for the university – critical to our future.”

Up for third and final reading Tuesday is an ordinance that would regulate Airbnbs and impose a permit fee as well as a room tax on the short term rentals in addition to setting up an appeals process with the city permits office for violations of city standards.

The appeals process replaces a short term rental board in the original draft of the ordinance.

The amended final version of the ordinance is backed by the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association as well as the Short Term Rental Alliance, according to leaders of both groups at an Oct. 4 council committee discussion on the matter, setting the stage for Tuesday’s third and final reading.

The council also takes a final vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would restrict panhandling in median strips and intersections.

In planning and development items, the council votes Tuesday on an amendment to a residential planned development on Callis Cut-Off Road east of Germantown Road by Lightman Realty Co.

The amendment would permit multi-family units in an area that currently permits single family housing with a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet. The planned development will become part of the Fieldstone Apartment Complex with 139 units in seven three-story buildings under terms of the amendment.

There is opposition to the apartment development.

The council also votes on a car lot at 1720 E. Holmes Road on what was the Southern Security Credit Union site.

Also on the council agenda is the transfer of $235,413 toward the $4 million remodeling of the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. Half of the funding is city funding and the other half is money raised by Memphis Museums Inc. The $235,413 in funding is being transferred from the renovation of the Pink Palace Planetarium which was completed under budget.

The original Pink Palace museum building is to close to the public in January as the renovation work begins. It will reopen in a year’s time.

Also up for a vote is a lease of the Hollywood Head Start Center in North Memphis.

Hattiloo Theater would lease the center at 2499 Chelsea Ave. as a technical theater for set, costume and prop design and construction as well as storage space and as a training center.

PROPERTY SALES 76 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 83 131 1,047
BUILDING PERMITS 190 277 3,028