VOL. 132 | NO. 39 | Thursday, February 23, 2017
Binghampton Gateway Center Spells End for Inner City Food Desert
By Patrick Lantrip
The groundbreaking of a shopping center doesn’t always attract a large crowd of city officials and TV cameras, but then again not every shopping center is an oasis in the middle of a food desert.
This group of city officials, residents and neighborhood developers gathered on particularly warm February afternoon for the groundbreaking of the Binghampton Gateway Center, a 33,000-square-foot shopping center near the intersection of Tillman Street and Sam Cooper Boulevard.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Binghampton Development Corp. officer Robert Montague said this project took the faith of the developers.
“It was not a project that you would call shovel-ready,” he said of the venture that has been in the works since 2004. “It took faith by the developers to enter into this journey when all other evidence suggested otherwise.”
However, Montague said most importantly, this project also required the faith of neighbors.
“It’s been an incredible journey and the neighborhood has been patient, because this is not the timeline we originally envisioned, and they have been supportive of every step.”
Anchor tenants Save-A-Lot and Dollar Tree did not chose to occupy the center because they were subsidized, according to Montague.
“They are not bought partners, they are willing tenants – they chose Binghampton,” he said.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the lack of availability to groceries and quality food at affordable prices is a challenge in many parts of Memphis.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to have fresh food that they can prepare in their homes,” Strickland said. “This project will help accomplish that here in Binghampton.”
Strickland said that while the growth and momentum in areas like Downtown and Midtown is very important to the city, it is just as important for neighborhoods like Binghampton to experience the same levels of growth.
“Just like Mike Conley cannot win without Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, we cannot win in neighborhoods without the partnership of the neighbors, the nonprofits and foundations, the development corporations and the city and county," he said. "It’s a team effort, and I’m so thankful to be a part of that team.”
Memphis Housing & Community Development director Paul Young said projects like this are exactly what the city wants to see.
“When we make an investment of city dollars into communities, what we want to see is private capital follow,” Young said. “What we have right here is a $6.6 million project where the city is putting up $300,000.”
Young also said he hopes to see projects like the Binghampton Gateway Center replicated throughout the city.
“That’s what it is going to take to make our communities great,” Young said. “They are great in terms of people, but in terms of aesthetics, blight and crime – those are the things that we want to clean up, and projects like this bring vitality, life and people to the communities.”
Binghampton Development Corp. director Noah Gray thanked all of the partners, donors and officials who made the Gateway Center a reality, including the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County, which awarded the project the inaugural Community Builder PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes).
He said the needs addressed by this project are four-fold – blight abatement, job access, food access, and hope.
“Binghampton is a USDA-designated food desert,” Gray said. “Twenty-seven percent of households in Binghampton have no personal vehicle. It is a significant improvement if you can walk to the grocery store and get healthy, affordable, quality groceries and walk them back to their house.”
Gray said the project will result in 70 temporary construction jobs and 55 full-time jobs at the anchor stores alone.
“We’ve seen a lot of investment on the peripheries, but this gateway is yours, Binghampton,” Gray said. “This is a signal of positive change, it says there is a new day in Binghampton.”