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VOL. 132 | NO. 77 | Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Signs of Life in San Antonio, Steel & Rice and Marco Pave's Rap Opera

By Bill Dries

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The Grizz were down 19 to the Spurs at the end of the first half in Monday’s game two of the NBA playoff’s opening round – 26 earlier in the game -- and had it down to four at the point in the fourth quarter when Grit & Grind came back to life. It was a short if eventful and promising return to life with the Spurs winning 96 – 82. Game 3 Wednesday at the Forum. And Tigers basketball is well into an eventful off-season of Snapchat moments and “junior college” signings.

In the Tennessee Legislature, Wednesday is a big day for the gas tax bill of Gov. Bill Haslam. That’s when the House floor debate is scheduled and counting votes is a fluid and a politically hazardous undertaking when any Legislature is in session – even one that counts caucus votes by popsicle sticks. So this could change. But our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard counts the Governor’s measure short of the votes needed for passage with the Democratic minority looking for something for a block of votes that could be crucial. If Haslam makes a deal, even with Republicans in the House or they pass their own plan, there is probably a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences in the two versions. And that’s where the knives could come out not just on differences on this issue, but long-standing differences between the two chambers and how they are led.

Meanwhile, the state of Tennessee is siding with the Trump administration on the federal appeal court skirmish over the president’s immigration travel ban, which is on hold pending the outcome of the court fight.

Back here on Wednesday, the agenda for the EDGE board got a lot more interesting with some late additions to the agenda. They include a Nucor Steel expansion that Nucor wants a PILOT for and the largest rice manufacturer in the world, Ebrofrost Holding, wants a tax break to build here in a facility owned by Riviana Foods.

Also on the agenda Wednesday, is a move to fold the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce into EDGE. GMACW was created about three years ago to get the city ahead of the return of economic development with workforce training that could respond before the new businesses got here instead of after.

Lots of discussion at Monday’s Shelby County Commission meeting about minority business – specifically when it comes to county government contracts. More when next we meet in this space. But here is the basic rundown of the meeting on that issue and a couple of others.

A coalition is calling on Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to include $10 million in funding for Memphis schools in the budget proposal he takes to the City Council next week. And it has a way to do it that it says will avoid the state "maintenance of effort" requirement to keep funding schools at that level.

The line for the 2018 elections is already forming and it includes contenders in the U.S. Senate race -- namely Nashville attorney and veteran James Mackler.

Early voter turnout in the special primary elections for state House District 95 has cracked 1,000 through Monday – 1,036 to be exact – with Saturday the last day for early voting in advance of the April 27 election day. Through Friday, the Election Commission is switching to 3-7 p.m. hours for early voting at the two locations. The Election Commission meets Tuesday to set the ballot for the May 25 special election for Lakeland commissioner. Three contenders at Monday’s withdrawal deadline in that contest.

Crosstown Concourse was conceived as a vertical village and if you go further south and east you could make the case that for much longer the Southern College of Optometry has been the city’s vertical higher education institution. At 11 stories, SCO is about to renovate and expand by closing balcony spaces, moving lockers around and installing a new kitchen for its diner with an expansion of it as both dining and study area. Construction is to begin this fall.

Elsewhere in Digest, more new arrivals at the Memphis Zoo -- three mandrills that go to Zambezi River Hippo Camp and the opening line up for the new park on Madison between Second and B.B. King. Lots of theater, opera, Star Wars, food trucks, t-shirts and yes, video.

Further south, the expansion of Loflin Yard.

Mayor-A-Rama on “Behind The Headlines” and a good discussion about the change that increasing density represents outside Memphis especially if public transportation is to work. Germantown has been talking with MATA about some kind of service to Methodist there, according to Mayor Mike Palazzolo. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell says there has to be a change in mindsets before you start changing bus routes. And Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson says Hernando West – that city’s first move into mixed use – has sold its first nine lots as homeowners in his town like the idea of old-town mixed use but remain resistant to building such a mixture new.

In our Residential Real Estate Emphasis:

Finding the new housing that has been missing from the Memphis real estate recovery from the recession requires new thinking and adaptability. The developers of Belmont in Arlington talk about lessons from past downturns and becoming both developers and homebuilders.

The condo boom was an early casualty of the recession. But the demand appears to be back as of 2016 and continuing into the first quarter of this year from what we are hearing. Some of that is the Artesian, the riverside high rise that became a symbol of the recession’s worst years.

More dialogue on the effort to leaven the move to rental status for single-family homes and the rise of single-home investors in the Memphis market. The THDA is upping its down payment assistance for home owners and combining that with a heavy push on financial literacy programs.

A commentary from MTV News on Marco Pave’s latest effort – “a rap opera” that reflects the uptick in protests over the last year in our city including the July bridge protest and the Graceland protest that followed in August.

PROPERTY SALES 69 163 12,921
MORTGAGES 35 85 8,088
BUILDING PERMITS 109 531 30,465
BANKRUPTCIES 18 85 6,149