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VOL. 132 | NO. 14 | Thursday, January 19, 2017

St. Jude Expansion Looks East of Campus

By Bill Dries

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The city’s plan for the Pinch District between the Pyramid and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital isn’t the only reason the city will seek expanded uses of the Tourism Development Zone and an expansion of a Tax Increment Financing district.

The “Gateway Plan” that includes the expansion of St. Jude’s campus, which is a catalyst for other development, includes a reimagined west wall of the Memphis Cook Convention Center visible from Interstate 40.


Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration 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 ALSAC officials offered more details about residential development financed by the TIF district along Alabama Street between St. Jude and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. The area is between Uptown and Legends Park.

Richard Shadyac, CEO of St. Jude’s funding arm ALSAC, also said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will probably propose more state funding for the project than the $12 million he announced in December.

“We’re hopeful to see another commitment from the state in the governor’s budget this year,” Shadyac told council members.

When the $12 million in state funding was announced last month, Strickland said the city would commit $25 million in TDZ and TIF funding for infrastructure – public improvements to the area.

The $25 million pledged 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 its $9 billion expansion last year – $1 billion for the physical campus and the rest in programs and technology – much of the attention has been on the nine blocks between the Pyramid and its 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 proposed change in the TDZ would allow some 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 the University of Tennessee Health Science Center 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.

He said it has become more than a re-skinning 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, with 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 waiting for pricing information on various options both firms have come up with before deciding what will be part of the renovation project and what won’t.

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