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VOL. 132 | NO. 35 | Friday, February 17, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Wessman Trouble, Selling 495 Union and An Underground Film Icon

By Bill Dries

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When Wessman Development came to town last year with the idea of a boutique hotel, the Palm Springs, California company was part of the flood of smaller hotel projects Memphis was seeing and is still seeing. Then the company added another hotel and just this month the redevelopment of a building on Madison west of Second Street as apartments with retail on the ground floor. In a very short period of time, Wessman has had a lot of plans for Memphis.

As these kinds of development plans go, Wessman came to town with specific interests in small properties where the location was the value – namely key parts of Downtown – and the ideas for them were fully formed very rapidly including renderings and schematics.

Company founder John Wessman was charged Thursday in Palm Springs with bribing former Palm Springs Mayor Stephen Pougnet, who is accused of accepting the bribes. Another developer in that area, Richard Meaney is also charged.

What happens to the Memphis plans is an open question although co-developer Chris Pardo, who has been the contact for most of Memphis officialdom on the projects and who is not charged in the case, told us late Thursday he has “no reason to believe the team at Wessman Development will adjust any of their current nor future development plans including the various Memphis developments.”

Not yet – that’s how the Nashville-based head honcho of the part of Gannett overseeing The Commercial Appeal responded this week when someone at the paper asked in a meeting if Gannett was about to sell the building at 495 Union Avenue.

The question looms with word earlier this week that the newspaper will move its printing from Memphis to Jackson, Tennessee starting in mid-April.

NuVasive Inc., a medical device company, gets an 11-year PILOT for a $116 million investment in an expansion to its southeast Memphis distribution center and regional office.

Our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard, talks with University of Memphis president David Rudd who was among the Memphians on Capitol Hill this week in Nashville. Rudd talked mostly about the new independent U of M board that was formally installed this week and confirmed the university is exploring working with private real estate companies on residence halls and similar construction projects.

The Wednesday press conference that was shouted down by protesters in Nashville prompts consideration of new security measure in the capitol.

Remember the Laffer Curve? The economist who originated it – Arthur Laffer – was in Nashville this week arguing against the cut in the sales tax on groceries proposed by Tn. Gov. Bill Haslam.

The NBC TV series “This Is Us” was just here filming scenes for an episode that airs next week. Here is the trailer for that and it promises an online feature about what is a critical chapter in the series that shows you its characters at different times in their lives.

Ballet on Wheels has set up shop this month at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library with workshops, book readings and lots of motion all built around Black History Month and encouraging African-American children to know that they too have a place in ballet.

Earlier this week, it was “Farm & Fries” in Germantown. At week’s end word of a restaurant chain called “Farm Burger” that has posted an ad looking for a chef here and is included in the latest list of tenants at Crosstown Concourse.

The Tigers in Connecticut Thursday run up an early lead on the Huskies but lose it and the game 63-62.

In the Friday Sports Section:

The Grizz at the All-Star Break and in his Press Box column, Don Wade, surveys the field at this week’s Memphis Open for a commentary on the state of professional tennis in the U.S.

David Climer in Nashville says don’t expect free agent razzle dazzle from the Titans’ general manager Jon Robinson but there are a few prospects on the free agent market that might be worth a look.

Dave Link in Knoxville on Major Leaguer Todd Helton in retirement at the Big Orange.

We had the chance to talk with Joe Dallesandro, the leading man in some of Andy Warhol’s best known art films of the 1960s and 1970s who also made art films with Louis Malle and others in France. We talked a few hours before he did an hour long question-and-answer session Wednesday evening at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. And it was an interesting conversation with an iconic figure who leaves most of the judgments about his film work to those who see the films. To him, it was just how his life turned out. He was happy to answer questions about it, but Dallesandro was someone totally focused on the here and now, which made this rare glimpse all the more interesting.

Chris Stapleton booked at Landers Center in Southaven for a June 9 show that includes Anderson East and Brent Cobb in what is billed as the “All American Road Show.”

The cover story by Don Wade in the new edition of our weekly, The Memphis News, sets the stage for next Thursday’s Women In Business Seminar at the Brooks. Our annual seminar on this topic always draws a large crowd and a great discussion.

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

“Behind The Headlines” is a reporters roundtable that includes Bernal Smith of The New Tri-State Defender, Toby Sells of The Memphis Flyer and Madeline Faber of High Ground News. Tune in Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO.

PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593