VOL. 132 | NO. 13 | Wednesday, January 18, 2017
New Details of St. Jude Expansion Look to Medical Corridors To The East
By Bill Dries
The city’s plans for the Pinch District between the Pyramid and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are only half of the plan the city will seek expanded uses of the Tourism Development Zone and an expansion of a Tax Increment Financing district for.
The administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is preparing to go to the state to seek an expansion of both, city Housing and Community Development Director Paul Young told Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Jan. 17. Young didn’t set a date for starting the process.
But he and St. Jude ALSAC officials offered more details about residential development financed by the TIF district along the Alabama Street corridor between St. Jude and Methodist Le Bonheur hospital to the east of St. Jude and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to the south. The development would also include the area between Uptown and Legends Park.
And St. Jude ALSAC CEO Richard Shadyac says Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will probably propose more state funding for the project than the $12 million in funding Haslam announced in December.
“We’re hopeful to see another commitment from the state in the Governor’s budget this year,” Shadyac told the council.
Along with the state funding announced last month, Strickland announced the city would commit $25 million in TDZ and TIF funding for infrastructure – public improvements to the area.
The $25 million in city funding pledged in December is without any changes in the TDZ or the TIF.
“Almost all of the state and city match monies are going to be used for public infrastructure and blight elimination for the greater good of the area,” Shadyac said. “It’s not going to be used to fund our expansion. That is my job as the leader of ALSAC to raise the money necessary to fund that expansion.”
Since St. Jude announced the $9 billion expansion last year -- $1 billion capital and the rest in programs and technology – much of the attention has been on the nine blocks between the Pyramid and the hospital’s campus.
The TIF expansion would direct property tax revenues to leverage affordable housing built east of St. Jude and the Pyramid including in the Carnes School area.
And the director of the Community Redevelopment Agency, to be selected soon by Strickland, would serve as a project manager for the housing effort. With the CRA involved,the revenue can only be used for affordable housing – not market value housing.
The change in the TDZ the administration will request is to allow the revenue to be used for Mud Island River Park and the city’s riverfront in addition to the Pyramid and Memphis Cook Convention Center.
Both proposed changes must win the approval of the Memphis City Council before going to the Tennessee Building Commission in Nashville.
The idea of a corridor of development between St. Jude and Le Bonheur dates back at least five years and was a goal of former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton during the depths of the national economic downturn.
Shadyac said he and leaders of Le Bonheur and UTHSC have been working for five years on the corridor concept as a “catalyst to help us revitalize and redevelop the areas around our campus, the uptown area and importantly the corridors between ST. Jude, Le Bonheur and UT Medical.”
Meanwhile, city chief operating officer Doug McGowen said the upcoming $60 million renovation of the Memphis Cook Convention Center is the next part of the Pinch plan – known formally as the Gateway Plan – that will show signs of life.
And he said it has become more than a reskinning of the convention center exterior to match the façade of the adjoining Cannon Center. There will be interior improvements that could include making the west wall of the convention center more of a gateway to the city for those traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.
He showed a rendering by LRK and CVS design that envisions a glass front across what is now brick and panels and the word “Memphis” in big lighted letters across the top. McGowen cautioned that the rendering is only an idea so far.
The city is still awaiting a pricing of the various options both firms have come up with before deciding what parts will be part of the renovation work and which won’t be.
Most of the action at Tuesday’s council day at City Hall was in committee sessions with the council delaying a vote on a Turner Dairy parking lot as part of a larger expansion in Overton Square. The expansion has drawn some opposition.
The council is now scheduled to take up the matter at its March 21 meeting.
Several council members talked Tuesday about undoing the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority and acting directly to hire a day-to-day manager for the entertainment district.
The Tuesday committee session was the first detailed look many of the seven council members present have had of the stalemate over picking a management firm.
After two rounds of requests for proposals – or RFPs – the authority ended talks last October with 21 Beale Street – the only applicant not ruled out at the end of the second round of the RFP process.
And at its last meeting of 2016, in December, the authority confirmed that the Downtown Memphis Commission will continue to manage the district as it has on an interim basis for the last three years.
The authority’s attorney said with a pending federal lawsuit that questions whether the authority holds the master lease with the city there is no point in trying to find a manager for now.
But council members Martavius Jones and Jamita Swearengen raised the possibility that the council should abolish the authority and hire a manager. The council approved all of the current members of the authority who are nominated by the mayor. The authority was created in 2015 with the approval of the council.
Neither Jones nor Swearengen formally proposed a resolution Tuesday to abolish the authority. Swearengen said she will wait for another committee session on the situation before deciding her next course of action.
But she and Jones and council members Joe Brown and Patrice Robinson questioned why 21 Beale wasn’t awarded the contract.
“It is our responsibility,” Robinson said.
Brown said it amounted to “gross discrimination.”
“We run this show,” he said of the council. “They don’t want us in on nothing. It’s been like this for years.”
Authority attorney Casey Shannon said the authority didn’t have “full confidence” in the abilities and experience of 21 Beale to manage a district with several dozen tenants, each with a different lease.
21 Beale Chief Administrative Officer Dwain Kyles called the reasoning “ludicrous.”
“They don’t want to tell us the real reason,” he added.
The lawsuit brought by the head of the Beale Street Development Corp. was filed in August and is a separate matter from the search for a district manager.
Because of the lawsuit, Shannon and other attorneys advised the Downtown Memphis Commission not to appear before the council or members of the authority.
The council approved a resolution Tuesday urging the Memphis Light Gas and Water board of commissioners to approve a plan to changes the utility’s Share the Pennies program. The change would automatically enroll utility customers in the rounding up of utility bills to the nearest dollar unless a customer specifically opts out. The extra paid on the bill would go to fund weatherization programs. Currently, customers must ask to be enrolled in the program.
The council vote was unanimous but drew some opposition from two citizens who told the council they oppose the principal.
“Government agencies should not force citizens to give to any charity no matter how noble the cause,” said Charles Smithers.
Council member Patrice Robinson said the current voluntary opt-in has only a 2 percent participation rate with ratepayers and is only raising enough to weatherize 300 homes a year. The goal is an additional 1,500 homes.
“We need to get the attention of people who aren’t paying attention,” she said.
Robinson also said opting out will be simple enough that the rounding up of bills shouldn’t be mandatory.