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VOL. 132 | NO. 65 | Friday, March 31, 2017

City of Memphis, Partners Urge Small Developers to Step Up

By Patrick Lantrip

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With once seemingly impossible projects coming to fruition like the Crosstown Concourse and ServiceMaster converting the former Peabody Place mall into its new corporate headquarters, there’s a feeling in the city that no project is too big to tackle.

John Anderson spoke at the first session of the Emerging Developer Boot Camp, a series of workshops and training sessions meant to help first-time and aspiring real estate developers understand the finer points of building smaller projects and parcels.

(Daily News/Patrick Lantrip)

But what about the projects that are too small to tackle?

While the success of a project like Crosstown is not predicated on the vitality of the surrounding area, it will never reach its full potential without it.

And since filling in the individual gaps in the neighborhoods surrounding these large-scale projects isn’t economically viable for most of the major players, there is a growing need for small developers in Memphis to step up and fill in these gaps, which are among the last missing pieces to the puzzle of the Bluff City’s developmental renaissance.

Which is why the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, Neighborhood Preservation Inc., the Downtown Memphis Commission, Urban Land Institute Memphis and the city of Memphis teamed up to bring the Incremental Development Alliance to Memphis for the Emerging Developer Boot Camp.

“There are 30,000 vacant properties or buildings in the city of Memphis today,” MMDC president Tommy Pacello said. “I look at it as 30,000 opportunities.”

IncDev, a nonprofit alliance of practitioners who train emerging real estate developers and help citizens strengthen their own neighborhoods, held the first of a series of workshops and training sessions meant to help first-time and aspiring real estate developers understand the finer points of building smaller projects and parcels Wednesday, March 29.

“We got a great large-scale developer community in Memphis,” Pacello said. “But the sobering thing is that they’re not coming for all of those. There are a lot of opportunities for other people to get involved with this work who historically may not have been a part of the real estate game in Memphis.”

John Anderson, IncDev founding member and a principal of Anderson | Kim Architecture + Urban Design, was in town to lead the initial workshop, which was split into two sessions – a morning session at Memphis Bioworks and an evening recap at High Cotton Brewing Co.

“If there are 30,000 vacant buildings and parcels in Memphis, you’re not going to run out of opportunity because someone else built on the lot next to where you wanted to build,” Anderson said. “There’s another lot; there’s another building.”

Anderson said since the larger outfits in the city are busy with their own projects, it’s up to the residents of Memphis to take it upon themselves to rehab the city’s abundance of vacant properties one parcel at a time.

In an effort to help prospective lot-level developers navigate the financial and bureaucratic obstacles that someone without a history in real estate may run into, InDev will host two more boot camps – a one-day session on May 1 and a two-day follow-up Sept. 2.

The May camp will focus on building a small developer ecosystem and cover financing tools, building types, code hacking and asking for money. The September session will be more plan-oriented and will cover drawing a site plan, zoning, finding an occupant and making a pitch package.

PROPERTY SALES 76 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 83 131 1,047
BUILDING PERMITS 190 277 3,028