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VOL. 132 | NO. 75 | Friday, April 14, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Derailed, The View From Pyramid Harbor and New History

By Bill Dries

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“Do Not Occupy” notices posted Thursday afternoon on most but not all of the newly-opened Railgarten complex on Central Avenue east of Cooper in Midtown. Local code officers acted after questions about whether the owners of the complex had approval for intermodal containers being used as part of the structure. The restaurant part of the structure in what was once an ice house remains open. There was already a lot of grumbling from neighbors about the music volume and late hours as well as parking for the development

The Land Use Control Board approved the Gateway concept plan Thursday for the Memphis Cook Convention Center area and the nine blocks between the Pyramid and St. Jude. Next stop is the Memphis City Council, probably in May at the earliest. And while some of the property owners in the Pinch want this to lift the city’s moratorium yesterday, another one says it should come soon so he can sell.

And Greg Ericson’s perspective on this is somewhat unique and informative. It also goes to the point of just how many plans the Pinch has had. Ericson, from his office space on Front Street, directly across the street from the Pyramid, had detailed plans for a theme park in the Pyramid, Mud Island and the city’s riverfront. It was a $250 million plan that came to be known as Pyramid Harbor in 2008. This was our reporting on it at the end of 2007 as it surfaced for the first time.

And before that, as you will see in the story, Ericson had been part of a 1993 proposal called Island Earth for the Pyramid.

There were suspicions that the fix was in for Bass Pro Shops over the Pyramid Harbor plans as well as another plan for an aquarium at the Pyramid. And there are suspicions now among some of the land owners that the very general concept plan approved the LUCB masks a more specific plan already on the tracks.

Ericson tells us he liked the concept plan and wants to head for Crosstown. But developers of a hotel on the other side of Front Street that was rejected by the City Council last year have come out against the concept plan on its way to the council.

The history of our city is spread over a lot of books and I used to think that was a draw back until I realized our history is best told with as much detail as possible. The overall story is too colorful and rich in what it says about our story as generations in this place to be contained in a single book. So, Otis Sanford – for the record, the person who hired me to come work at The Commercial Appeal – has written a new contribution to the canon of definitive histories of Memphis.

We take a look at “From Boss Crump to King Willie” for how it changes some of the perceptions in other history texts. That is the other thing that happens, as our story continues to unfold, it changes our view of what we thought we knew before. Also Sanford went back to the daily coverage, not just by the CA – but by the other newspapers in this town over the decades. And I am a big fan of daily political coverage as not just the first draft of history, but the enduring draft of a longer narrative. There is something about writing a story without knowing how the longer story will turn out that I think can only be captured in daily coverage.

It can also correct some ideas that become orthodoxy over the years. It was the approach Lynette Boney Wrenn used in her excellent 1998 book “Crisis and Commission Government in Memphis” that challenged and corrected many of the wrong assumptions in Gerald Capers’ 1939 history “The Biography of a River Town.”

In our Friday sports section:

Don Wade in “The Press Box” on Tigers basketball’s ponderous off-season.

The NBA second season finds the Grizz in a familiar place with a familiar playoff opponent – the Spurs starting Saturday in San Antonio. That thing with the Clippers was just momentary. The Grizz and Spurs have history in the season that counts.

David Climer on the Big Orange’s football defensive coordinator.

In the Tennessee Legislature, Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law the bill that ends the idea of local ordinances allowing police to write a civil summons for a $50 fine for possessing half an ounce or less of marijuana. The two ordinances approved in Nashville and Memphis have been on hold since last fall with one person being cited by Memphis police instead of arrested before a legal opinion from the state Attorney General prompted the city to suspend the use of the option.

Our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard on the failure of the immigrant student in-state tuition bill this week in House committee. The measure was sponsored by Memphis Republican Mark White and nearly passed two years ago there. The Senate version was sponsored by Chattanooga Republican Todd Gardenhire, one of the most conservative legislators on the hill. And the bill had support across party lines in the Shelby delegation. White’s post mortem is that the question of legal immigration status was a generational one for legislators.

You’ve heard of Tennessee Promise, which guarantees two years of free community college to all Tennessee high school graduates. The state House Thursday approved companion legislation making the same guarantee for Tennessee adults with no college degree or two year certificate. The bill heads for the state Senate next week in Nashville.

Also at week’s end in the capitol, the Senate approved a bill that sets an age limit for school bus drivers. They must be at least 25 years old and have no serious traffic violations in the last three years. This bill heads for the House next week for approval.

A mayoral triple-play on “Behind the Headlines” with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo and Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson. They are part of a gathering of mayors from the region in Memphis on April 27 for the Urban Land Institute’s RegionSmart Summit. We talked with Luttrell, Palazzolo and Johnson about regional plans that have taken our images of economic development away from the idea that it is new homes, shopping centers or office space, warehouses and factories. And in our discussion, there was agreement that leadership has probably moved beyond the stereotypes faster than the rest of us.

The show airs Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO-TV.

The cover story by Patrick Lantrip in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about the 2017 property reappraisal – the results of which have been showing up in mailboxes around town for about a month now with reappraisals of commercial property going out late next week to complete the process before appeals. These last three reappraisals represent a highly unusual cycle for property values due in large part to the national recession as the housing bubble burst.

A PDF of the new issue is up now on this website. The hard copies are on the streets Friday morning and the online version of the cover story goes up Friday afternoon.

Primacy II in East Memphis sells for $16.6 million.

First Horizon’s CEO says he is “reasonably optimistic” about the economy this year with economic growth expected at a “modest pace,” which translates to about 1.5 to 2 percent. Bryan Jordan, in the first quarter earnings call Thursday, also predicts the Fed will raise rates a couple of times over the next three quarters in the calendar year.

Concert announcement Friday morning at 8am on Facebook and @memphisdaily for your late summer planning purposes.

Freewheel, the slow-ride bicycle program, is back starting next Wednesday for a second season of exploring various neighborhoods on two wheels 45 minutes at a time every Wednesday for six weeks with you either bringing your own bike or borrowing one from the medical district fleet

After watching ESPN’s “30 for 30” two-hour documentary Thursday evening on John Calipari, I think I have a new appreciation for just how flawed and limited his vision of life and success is for young men gifted enough to play professional basketball.

No matter how gifted they are, they will still have lots of life left to live when their playing days are over. And the grab for the paycheck, however big that pay check is, tends to come at the expense of building wealth especially when the bigger the pay check the more people want a piece of it.

Yet, repeatedly Calipari tells his players that they are going pro – even when Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose say in the documentary that they thought about staying in college.

“Is it about education or jobs?” is the question Calipari poses toward the end of the documentary. And that, to me, encapsulates the false choice that he sincerely believes in.

So Calipari is reality and the rest is a fairy tale? Never mind that the presence of “Worldwide Wes” – the connection to Derrick Rose and Dejuan Wagner appears out of thin air and Calipari professes not to know that much about him. Their meeting is serendipitous, just a very fortunate circumstance. He cares about his players personally and misses nothing. But he is completely ignorant about any indication of outside influences, the trappings of a corruption of the rules governing student athletes and the beleaguered ideal of amateur athletics.

To be fair, as former NBA commissioner David Stern says, the universities could at any time decide for themselves that they will not use one and done players. But it is just as clear that Calipari embraced one and done from the outset of the rules change and regards it as the moment of clarity about his purpose, which apparently doesn't extend one inch beyond a basketball court.

“Everyone had to eat,” you see him say at his Hall of Fame induction. He calls himself a “dream fulfiller.”

He tells his players at Kentucky that they are their own “lottery tickets.”

Derrick Rose says of the NCAA investigation of the scandal at the University of Memphis in 2008: “It was kind of like they were searching for something that wasn’t there.”

To Calipari, the value in Rose and Camby – the two scandals that erased the records of the UMass and U of M teams he coached – is that none of those involved who know what happened “threw anybody under the bus.” But let's not believe for a second that the bus Calipari was driving didn't run over anyone.

You might feel differently. Either way, I encourage you to watch the documentary.

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270