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VOL. 10 | NO. 19 | Saturday, May 6, 2017

Raleigh Springs Town Center ‘On Track and On Budget’

K. DENISE JENNINGS/Special to The Memphis News

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It’s the end of an era with the final demolition of Raleigh Springs Mall underway, and city and community leaders hope it’s the beginning of a brighter future with the much-anticipated Raleigh Springs Town Center set to rise in its place.

After years of legal wrangling and delays, the project is “right on track,” said Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison, who grew up in Raleigh in the mall’s heyday.

“We’ve had a tough time getting to this point,” Morrison said. “… It’s nice to be to a point where we’ve had smooth going on the project.”

Memphis City Councilman Bill Morrison is helping lead the effort to overhaul the former Raleigh Springs Mall into the Raleigh Springs Town Center.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

And Morrison cannot hide his excitement about what the town center might mean for the future of the city.

“The design process started with the people who ran the library and we were very diligent,” said Morrison. “We’ve spent years getting public input, so we didn’t want to change anything unless budgeting required it. We’re right where we need to be. On track and on budget.”

The $23.4 million project design was approved in late 2013, and the budget was approved a year later. Demolition of the 1970s-era mall is underway; a request for proposals, or RFP, for new construction is set to be issued in June, with construction to begin in August and a projected completion date of September 2018.

Mike Carol, former president of the Raleigh Community Council and the owner of longtime Raleigh business Mike’s Autoplex, is skeptical but hopeful.

Carol points to the site of the demolished Montesi’s grocery store at Austin Peay Highway and Yale Road as his reason for doubting the new town center will ever be completed. In recent years, city leaders had said they would redevelop the property as the Memphis Police Department’s traffic precinct. Those plans shifted, and the precinct is now one of the elements slated to go in the Raleigh Springs Town Center.

“Two things can happen,” Carol said. “Either nothing will happen or we’ll put so much pressure on (the city) that they follow through.”

Morrison acknowledges the change in plans but says the new project is better-designed. In addition to the traffic precinct, the Old Allen police station – MPD’s oldest – is slated to move into the town center. The close proximity of the two stations will cut down on the duplication of services and will save taxpayers money, Morrison says.

The development, which was designed by another son of Raleigh, Tom Marshall of O.T. Marshall Architects, will also include a state-of-the-art library with a tech center specifically for 13- to 18- year-olds and a second-story rooftop observation area overlooking an adjacent lake.

The 11-acre lake will include a fountain and be surrounded by a one-mile walking trail.

“People have always used that mall for walking, so we wanted to incorporate that into the design,” Morrison said.

The lake will also serve as flood control to protect the nearby residential homes.

The design will also incorporate a large skate park designed by a California firm as well as ample parking flanking the development.

“When you talk about what a community needs to address to thrive … traffic, crime and public services – we think we’ve covered all the needs with this project,” said Morrison, who also hopes the proximity of the library and recreation areas to the police station will encourage members of the community to build relationships with police while also encouraging unity and civic pride.

Commercial and residential development is another long-term goal of building the town center. Morrison sees it as a natural draw and a plus for families and businesses looking for a place to call home.

“We are hoping and expecting the development of the Raleigh Springs Town Center will bring more jobs and interest to the Raleigh area,” said Faye Morrison, current president of the Raleigh Community Council and Bill Morrison’s mother. “We’re hoping it will bring new faces, new blood and new jobs into the life of the community.”

Austin Peay Highway, the main commercial corridor of the Raleigh community, has already seen commercial redevelopment in recent years. New additions over the past 16 months include longtime Memphis restaurant supply company Lit Junior as well as a variety of national chains, including dd’s Discounts, Smoothie King, Conn’s HomePlus and Gen X Clothing.

“It’s just popping up,” Morrison said. “We still have our needs, and one of our biggest desires is to see a restaurant come back to Austin Peay. I think that would add to the families who are coming here.”

He said Raleigh has a lot going for it, but “we just don’t sell it very well.”

“It’s one of the more stable communities in the city in terms of homeownership and income,” he added, “and I hope this brings even more redevelopment and retail to Austin Peay.”

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