VOL. 132 | NO. 155 | Monday, August 07, 2017
MLGW Moving Forward With Relocation Plans
By Patrick Lantrip
Officials with Memphis, Light, Gas and Water Division are continuing with plans to expand operations at its North Service Center, despite the concerns of some residents who feel like the industrial facility is encroaching on their neighborhood.
The North Service Center is a roughly 60-acre site in the Hyde Park neighborhood of North Memphis, the utility’s largest facility. MLGW wants to fold the operations of its Central Shops facility on Beale Street in the Memphis Medical District into an expanded area adjacent to the North Center’s current footprint.
“It makes sense because a lot of other units work out of the North Center, so having them together makes it a lot more efficient,” MLGW president Jerry Collins said.
Collins doesn’t expect this move to take place for about three more years, as MLGW is still acquiring the land. Once completed, the electric distribution operations, large vehicle maintenance facility, engineering inventory and storeroom will all be housed in North Memphis.
MLGW wants to fold the operations of its Central Shops facility on Beale Street in the Memphis Medical District into an expanded area adjacent to the North Center’s current footprint. (Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
“We’re in the process of seeking to purchase about 130 parcels,” Collins said. “(There are) about a half dozen properties that we have not purchased. If there are some people who want to stay there and not move out, then we will let them do that. We’re not going to throw anyone out of their house.”
Collins added that of the 130 parcels, 70 were vacant lots and 19 were abandoned homes. Some nearby residents feel like the expansion is bad for their neighborhood.
“We’re already in a neighborhood where property values are low, so when they do this, it only makes our property values even lower,” resident Janice Mondie said. “Everybody is talking about connectability, walkability and bikability. How are we supposed to bike and walk and compete with a whole fleet of service trucks of all shapes and sizes?”
Mondie feels like the expansion plans are not receiving the same level of scrutiny as they would in a more prominent or affluent area.
“Memphis and Shelby County is just awash of surplus commercial and industrial properties. They could put that shop anywhere,” Mondie said.
Many of the neighborhood’s homeowners who were in favor of selling were investors who don’t live in the area, she added.
“You do have a high number of landlords, people who don’t live in the area,” she said. “But for the owners who live here, who have been here 20, 30, 40, 50 years, they did not want to go.”
One of the houses purchased by MLGW was the former home of Joe C. Warren, the sanitation worker who was responsible for coining the “I Am a Man” phrase in 1968 that defined the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. Collins said the house was slated for demolition before its historical significance was brought to his attention. Once the asbestos issues are mitigated, MLGW plans on preserving the house as a shrine to Warren and the other sanitation workers.
“We’re going to put up a historical marker or sign that tells about Joe C. Warren and what he did in 1968 and what he stood for,” he said.
As for the Central Shops, which is located in the increasingly sought-after medical district in Memphis, Collins said once vacated, MLGW plans to sell the property.
“There has been a lot of interest, so I don’t think (finding a buyer) will be a problem,” he said. “Certainly a lot of people are interested in the property from the standpoint of maybe residential units, but it can serve many different functions.”