City Begins Forums On Youth Violence

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration begin a set of four meetings Saturday, Jan. 21, to address the problem of young violence.

The sessions, which will include elected and religious leaders, are billed as a “citywide peace forum” by the city’s Office of Youth Services.

The first of the four forums is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Greater New Liberty Missionary Baptist Church, 250 E. Raines Road.

The forum is for youth ages 14-21 to talk about violence and their communities and suggest solutions to the violence.

The other forums, all from 10 a.m. to noon, are:

• Jan. 28 at One Accord Ministries, 1708 Vera Cruz

• Feb. 4 at Union Grove Baptist Church, 2285 Frayser Blvd.

• Feb. 11 at Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church, 123 South Parkway W.

The panelists include Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings, District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Shelby County Schools chief of security services Gerald Darling, and city council members and Shelby County Schools board members representing those areas.

– Bill Dries

Five Citizens File Suit Against City and Graceland

Five citizens denied entry to the annual candlelight vigil outside Graceland last August are suing the city and Elvis Presley Enterprises for racial discrimination and civil rights violations.

The federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday, Jan. 18, by Aaron Lewis, Keedran Franklin, Earle Fisher, Catherine Lewis and Charline Tramel.

It seeks punitive damages of an unspecified amount, compensation for humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish as well as an injunction barring such behavior in the future.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens called for a protest at the annual vigil commemorating the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death to call attention to issue of poverty and low-paying jobs.

Memphis Police responded with checkpoints on both sides of the vigil area on Elvis Presley Boulevard in an attempt to screen out and deny admittance to any protesters.

Protesters denied entrance to the vigil area gathered at Elvis Presley Boulevard and Craft Road and were confined for a short time to an area enclosed in metal barricades. Three people were arrested by police.

The lawsuit, filed by Memphis attorney Bruce Kramer, claims those denied entrance were turned away because they were African-Americans.

“Defendants, the city of Memphis Police Department, under the direction of Elvis Presley Enterprises, required black citizens attempting to attend the public vigil to remain in certain fenced-off areas and black citizens were not allowed access to Graceland or the sidewalks surrounding Graceland, which is open to the public,” the lawsuit reads. “Other similarly situated white citizens were allowed access to Graceland and to the public sidewalks surrounding Graceland.”

The lawsuit alleges Graceland coordinated with Memphis Police in advance and that Graceland had “one employee who was directing and/or coordinating with the Memphis Police Department and using the Memphis Police Department as Graceland’s security force for the public candlelight vigil.”

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings has denied any racial bias in how police determined who was a protester and who was attending the vigil, but the city has otherwise declined comment, citing the likelihood of a lawsuit.

– Bill Dries

3 Parcels in Whitehaven Sell for $1.4 Million

Joe Poppenheimer Management LLC has sold three parcels of commercial property in the Whitehaven area to Mikes Properties LLC for $1.4 million, according to a Jan. 17 warranty deed filed with the Shelby County Register of Deeds.

The three parcels have physical addresses at 3647 Millbranch Road, 1715 Holmes Road and 1665 E. Raines Road.

Elizabeth P. Carol signed the deed as manager of Joe Poppenheimer Management LLC.

In conjunction with the purchase, Mikes Properties LLC signed a $1 million mortgage the same day with Planters Bank and Trust Co. of Southaven.

The loan, which is set to mature Jan, 13, 2032, was signed by Mohammad Aqraa.

The 3647 Millbranch location, which was built in 1977, is listed as a 20,400-square-foot Class C strip shopping center that sits on 1.7 acres of land, according to the Shelby County Assessor of Property.

The 1715 Holmes location is an 11,380-square-foot Class C strip shopping center built in 1972 that sits on 0.9 acres, while the 1665 E. Raines location is a 9,600-square-foot building built in 1976 on roughly an acre.

All the properties were appraised as a combined $1.4 million in 2016.

– Patrick Lantrip

Pinnacle, The Works Inc. Partner for Homebuyers

Pinnacle Financial Partners and Memphis nonprofit The Works Inc. have teamed up to help low- and moderate-income consumers and families buy homes for the first time.

The bank is funding a loan pool of $500,000 intended to help with the purchase of low-cost homes that might otherwise go unoccupied.

The Works Inc. will originate the loans in the new program while Pinnacle services them.

The nonprofit will also work with the applicants to provide credit counseling and serve as an ongoing resource for mortgage clients.

The loan pool will fund home loans below $50,000, typically the minimum amount for most mortgage lenders. Because of the low cost of those homes, many potential buyers find it difficult to secure loans despite having acceptable credit and the ability to pay.

The initial $500,000 investment is intended to serve as a pilot, with the potential for growth in the future depending on the success of the program.

– Andy Meek

Historic Downtown Church May Finally Rise from Ashes

More than 10 years after a fire ravaged First United Methodist Church, church officials are ready to move forward with the next phase of the rebuilding process.

The church, which sits on a half acre near Second Street and Poplar Avenue Downtown, filed a nearly $2.6 million building permit with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to complete the building.

Chris Woods Construction Co. is listed as the contractor for the project.

Back in 2006, an early morning fire ripped through several Downtown buildings. Embers caught the historic church, which was first organized in 1826, on fire and destroyed it. Though no civilians or firefighters were injured, it took more than 150 firefighters over five hours to finally bring the fire under control.

In 2008, the church filed a $5 million building permit as a part of its rebuilding efforts.

For several years after that, the steel-framed skeleton of the sanctuary has remained unfinished.

– Patrick Lantrip

Memphis Redbirds Unveil New Team Logo

The Memphis Redbirds have unveiled a new brand identity, with logos that evoke the neon lights of Beale Street, plus a throwback element that will be familiar to Memphis sports fans of the 1970s.

The primary logo replicates the tube lighting of a neon street sign, a look that carries over to the team’s text logo and the numbers on the jerseys. Both the home and away uniforms feature the word “Memphis” across the front, with the “M” being a neon-style, reimagined version of the Memphis Blues logo from the 1970s.

“With this branding we set out to capture not only the soul of Memphis, but to do it as authentically as possible, without losing our connection to the St. Louis Cardinals, which is very important to us,” said Redbirds principal owner Peter Freund at the Wednesday, Jan. 18, announcement.

Dan Simon of Studio Simon designed the new brand, which features the Cardinals’ primary colors of red, navy and yellow.

Among the Redbirds' other reimagined designs is a modernized Rockey the Redbird that will be featured on powder-blue alternate team jerseys – a throwback to the 1980s Cardinals look.

Freund called the new Rockey design “a more modern 'Dirty Bird'" – referring to the famous Cardinals logo – "a lefty pitcher, who I think will be pretty popular and certainly goes with the feel that we were trying to create.”

Two primary styles of hats will be available, one featuring the music note “M” and the other with the modernized take on Rockey the Redbird’s head.

Redbirds president/general manager Craig Unger noted that the rebrand is the first change visible to the public since Freund purchased the team 10 months ago.

“While many things have been happening on the business side and on the office side over the past several months, today is the first public side of reaffirming the Redbirds and the connection to Memphis,” Unger said.

Freund said to expect additional announcements over the coming weeks.

Fans can buy new logoed merchandise in one of two mini-memberships. Fans will choose one of three different T-shirt designs to go along with a ticket to the “Battle of the Birds” exhibition game against the Cardinals on March 30 plus a ticket to every Friday or every Saturday home game during the 2017 season. For more information, visit

– Daily News staff

U of M Extends Women’s Basketball Coach Contract

The University of Memphis has extended the contract of women's basketball head coach Melissa McFerrin two years, the third extension of her Memphis tenure. She is now under contract through the 2018-19 season.

"Over the past nine seasons, coach McFerrin has continued to elevate the women's basketball program at the University of Memphis,” athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. “Her players have excelled not only in the classroom, but on the court as well. Coach McFerrin has reached postseason play five times, including an appearance in the 2016 WNIT. We are excited about the future of Memphis women's basketball."

McFerrin owns an overall record of 148-135. During her first eight seasons, she has guided the Tigers to four WNIT appearances, one WBI Finals appearance and three seasons with at least 20 wins.

In her time at Memphis, McFerrin has guided 17 players to All-Conference honors, 23 players to All-Academic Team honors as well as coached the 2012 Conference USA Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and the 2010 C-USA Newcomer of the Year.

In nine seasons at Memphis, McFerrin spearheaded a $4 million renovation done to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. Renovations included new locker rooms, a new athletic training complex, and a new, multilevel strength and conditioning and cardio area. The team has also made two international trips (Italy in 2011 and Spain in 2016) under her direction.

– Don Wade

Council Delays Dairy Vote, Backs MLGW Bill Rounding

Memphis City Council members delayed Tuesday, Jan. 17, 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.

Council members also passed a resolution Tuesday urging the Memphis Light, Gas and Water board of commissioners to approve changes to the utility’s Share the Pennies program.

The change would automatically enroll MLGW customers in the program, which rounds utility bills up to the nearest dollar, unless the 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 principle.

“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 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.

– Bill Dries

TraVure Developers Close On Construction Loan

Developers of the TraVure mixed-use project in Germantown have closed on a $34.1 million construction loan.

First Bank provided the financing for the five-story, 150,000-square-foot Class A office building that will include the new corporate headquarters for apartment real estate investment trust MAA. It includes a five-story parking garage.

TraVure, which is located on the south side of Poplar Avenue just east of Kirby Parkway, also will include a co-branded hotel and retail space.

– Bill Dries

Rallings: Valero Protesters ‘Defamed’ King Holiday

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings defended the response of police officers and firefighters to a Monday, Jan. 16, protest that shut down access to the Valero refinery in South Memphis for five hours. And he said the action to protest an oil pipeline to the plant that would cross Arkansas defamed the federal holiday Monday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A dozen people were arrested by police on misdemeanor charges, including several who chained themselves to barrels across the entrance of the facility until firefighters cut the chains.

“We protect the right to protest. We want people to do it lawfully. And if they will not abide by our commands to disperse we only have limited actions,” Rallings told reporters Tuesday, Jan. 17. “We will not allow individuals to stop business, to destroy property and to defame the King holiday in such a manner. Actually Memphians should be outraged that this type of activity is occurring.”

Rallings commented following an appearance before a city council committee where he said the city should complete testing of rape kits left untested for decades at the end of 2017. The set of 12,000 rape kits, some dating back to the 1970s, were taken from rape victims but never processed.

Memphis Police began sending the kits for testing in 2013 and currently is shipping about 200 kits per month to labs for testing. The MPD sent 1,500 for testing in 2016, according to Rallings.

City chief operating officer Doug McGowen said the city has spent $10 million – a mix of federal, state and local funding – on the testing so far, with $3 million of that being local funds.

– Bill Dries

Dickey Promoted to Tigers’ Offensive Coordinator

University of Memphis head coach Mike Norvell has announced three staff promotions, including elevating Darrell Dickey to offensive coordinator.

Kenny Dillingham has been promoted to a full-time assistant coach position as the quarterbacks and tight ends coach, and Ryan Silverfield will add Tigers’ run game coordinator to his duties.

“The interest generated by our opening was remarkable,” Norvell said of the offensive coordinator position. “But after the process of visiting with a number of coaches and coordinators from a variety of schools and just about every conference across college football, I feel the best option to continue our high standard of offensive success is to promote from within our staff.”

In 2016, the Memphis offense ranked 15th in the country with 38.8 points per game and 14th in passing efficiency with 304.4 yards per game.

Dickey, who was the Tigers’ co-offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, spent last season as the associate head coach and running backs coach. He helped junior running back Doroland Dorceus to an 810-yard, nine-touchdown season and helped develop freshmen backs Patrick Taylor Jr. (93 carries, 572 yards and two touchdowns), Darrell Henderson (87 carries for 482 yards and five touchdowns) and Tony Pollard (31 carries for 170 yards and one touchdown).

Dillingham spent last season as a graduate assistant coach and oversaw the development of the Memphis quarterbacks, including junior college transfer Riley Ferguson. Ferguson ranked 11th in the NCAA last season in total passing yards (3,698), leading the American Athletic Conference. He set a Memphis single-season touchdown record (32), which also tied for 11th in the NCAA.

The final piece of the promotions announced by Norvell will be offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield taking on additional duties as the Tigers’ run-game coordinator. The Tiger football team will open its spring practice on March 16, practicing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through spring camp. The Tigers’ annual spring game, Friday Night Stripes, will be held on April 14.

– Don Wade

Brooks Museum Opens Cafe Brooks by Paradox

The team behind Paradox Catering & Consulting will be running the newly created cafe inside the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Ave.

Located off the museum’s rotunda, the new Cafe Brooks by Paradox offers a casual and family-friendly experience.

The grand opening was Jan. 18, in time for the opening of “Brooks Outside: Intrude,” an art installation that consists of five giant, illuminated rabbits, the largest of which is more than 23 feet tall.

– Andy Meek

Memphis AMA Adopts New Brand Identity

The Memphis chapter of the American Marketing Association has a new brand identity.

The new look – launched by the national association – was developed by Chicago-based branding agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul to better reflect the AMA’s role in the global marketing community and the organization’s vision for the future. The design is meant to embody “forwardness and action,” according to the organization, and the primary colors are bone white, French navy blue and black.

Since the national launch, said AMA Memphis president Mary Stratton, chapters across the country have been adopting the new brand and incorporating the look into local communications, including chapter websites, collateral, signage, content, conferences and events.

– Andy Meek

FedEx Warns of Possible Inauguration Day Delays

Due to the heightened security measures that will be in place during Inauguration Day on Friday, Jan. 20, FedEx released a service alert warning customers of possible shipping delays in and around the Washington, D.C., security zones.

To mitigate possible delays, FedEx said it has contingency plans in place.

“FedEx will be operating during these events, however because of enhanced local security measures and mandates set forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for this National Special Security Event, customers may experience service delays and disruptions in and around the security zones,” the statement read in part.

– Patrick Lantrip

Frontier Increases Size Of Memphis-Denver Flights

Memphis International Airport has announced that Frontier Airlines will increase the size of its Memphis to Denver route beginning April 21.

The Denver-based airline, which returned to MEM with Memphis-Denver service in 2014, plans to swap its current 150-seat Airbus A319 with a 230-seat Airbus A321, which will be the largest scheduled passenger plane operating at MEM since 2011.

The aircraft change represents a 65 percent increase in seats for Frontier’s daily Denver flights, or 560 seats per week.

“This is excellent news for our westbound passengers,” said Pace Cooper, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners. “Frontier Airlines routinely has very high enplanement rates, and this shows they are responding to our passengers’ demands and giving them more opportunities to fly to Denver.”

– Patrick Lantrip

Belz Pulls $1.1M Permit For Plasma Biological Services

Belz Construction Services LLC has pulled a $1.1 million building permit on behalf of Plasma Biological Services LLC.

The application filed with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement calls for tenant improvements on 19,088 square feet at 3570 S. Mendenhall Road.

Plasma Biological Services is an affiliate of The Interstate Cos., a group of 22 plasmapheresis centers, eight blood centers and a laboratory that provides human blood and/or blood components to the therapeutic and diagnostic industries.

According to its website, The Interstate Cos. operates five facilities in the Memphis area.

The 5370 S. Mendenhall property is part of a 6.9-acre commercial shopping center, which lists 5366 Winchester Road as its address on the Shelby County Assessor of Property’s website. The 126,528-square-foot shopping center, built in 1972 at the corner of Mendenhall and Winchester roads, is owned by Belz Investco GP.

– Patrick Lantrip

Porter-Leath Academy To Open in February

Porter-Leath’s Early Childhood Academy will hold its grand opening in South Memphis on Feb. 10.

Porter-Leath broke ground in March on the $9.8 million facility, located at 628 Alice Ave. near Alton Elementary School in the Longview Heights section of South Memphis.

In addition to being a state-of-the-art preschool for 224 children in 16 classrooms, the academy also has a 32,000-square-foot teacher training center Porter-Leath planned in partnership with Shelby County Schools.

SCS provides Head Start services under contract with the federal government, and Porter-Leath provides early Head Start services.

The center is designed by RDG Planning and Design.

– Bill Dries

Ernest Strickland Promoted At Memphis Chamber

The Greater Memphis Chamber has announced that Ernest Strickland has been promoted to senior vice president of workforce development.

Strickland, who has worked at the chamber since 2006, previously held the position of vice president of international and business partnerships.

In his new position, he is responsible for creating and implementing the chamber’s workforce development strategy. His department serves as a liaison, working directly with existing and prospective businesses to ensure they are able to attract and retain a qualified workforce today and in the future.

“The chamber is fortunate to have a talented leader like Ernest Strickland who is passionate and dedicated to the success of Memphis,” Greater Memphis Chamber president and CEO Phil Trenary said in a statement. “I have no doubt he will take our workforce efforts to the next level,”

Strickland holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree from Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee.

– Don Wade

Verso Corp. Gets New Chief Executive Officer

Memphis-based Verso Corp. has named B. Christopher DiSantis as its new chief executive officer effective Feb. 1.

DiSantis comes to the paper and pulp company from being CEO of H-D Advanced Manufacturing Co. for the last four years. H-D makes motion-control products in the aerospace and defense industries. Before that, he was CEO of Latrobe Specialty Metal, which supplied alloys for aerospace and defense manufacturing before it was bought by Carpenter Technology Corp.

The announcement Thursday, Jan. 12, is the latest in a series of changes at a corporation facing a changing industry and a challenging market.

In November, the company announced it will move its headquarters from Memphis to Miamisburg, Ohio, part of an office consolidation effort as the company works to reduce its overhead expenses by 10 percent annually. The strategic plan, including the move out of Memphis, was to begin this month.

Verso filed for bankruptcy reorganization a year ago after reaching an agreement with creditors on the reorganization plan. It included a financing package of up to $600 million to allow the company to continue to operate day to day in the turnaround of the company.

– Bill Dries

Germantown Launches Redesigned Website

The city of Germantown has redesigned its website.

The website, still at, includes a dashboard that allows citizens to see progress being made on the city’s Germantown Forward 2030 objectives. The website also includes more prominent placement of frequently sought subjects, including online services and payments.

– Bill Dries

Crosstown Creator Named ‘Communicator of the Year’

Crosstown Concourse visionary Todd Richardson has been named the Communicator of the Year by the Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Richardson was chosen in part for the exceptional communication skills he demonstrated by spearheading the much-anticipated Crosstown Concourse, a project to convert the old Sears Tower into an urban village with public and private commercial tenants and residential units.

Many people deemed the project impossible just a few years ago.

Speakers at the luncheon included Church Health's founder and CEO, Dr. Scott Morris and Joel Hapern, a partner and director of strategy for Loaded for Bear.

According to the local wing of PRSA, which is now in its 40th year, the Communicator of the Year award is given to a member of the community who “exhibits the ability to communicate effectively to general or specific publics; has public visibility as a communicator; is a respected member of the community; and invests his or her time and talent communicating a specific message or messages.”

– Patrick Lantrip

Towns: Junk Food Bill Would Bully the Poor

State Rep. Joe Towns Jr., a Memphis Democrat, isn’t surprised that Rep. Sheila Butt dropped her bill limiting “junk food” for food stamp recipients.

“She should because she’s lost her damn mind,” Towns said Tuesday, Jan. 17. “How are you going to put out a bill to tell people what they can and can’t eat?”

Not only do people “stretch” their money as far as they can when they’re receiving government assistance, he said, many of them live in “food deserts” where fresh foods aren’t available close to their homes.

In November alone, according to reports, Shelby County residents received more than $31 million of $134 million provided statewide through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Butt, a Columbia Republican, said her bill, filed last week, initiated a statewide debate, nevertheless, about healthy diets and food purchases.

Towns, however, said the bill was nothing more than “bullying the poor.”

– Sam Stockard