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VOL. 132 | NO. 92 | Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Railgarten Redux, Raleigh Springs Mall and Forrest Author Speaks

By Bill Dries

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Railgarten II, Son of Railgarten, Railgarten, Beyond the Board of Adjustment, Railgarten, Enter The City Council … Take your pick of sequel titles. Railgarten goes back to the City Council Tuesday for at least a committee discussion in which the council considers whether it should take back the special use permit it granted the bar-restaurant. This is a follow up to the Board of Adjustment decision last month to delay any action on approving the other annexes of the business for 30 days.

It doesn’t take too long sitting at Beale Street Landing to see the potential of a city undertaking that was over budget and overdue in its timeline – by a lot in both cases. Despite that, you can watch people come and go from what amounts to this beacon on the river and see a lot of missed opportunities in folks looking for a next place to go, a place to contemplate an afternoon or morning game plan on the fly. When we are on the river or our visitors are on the river, our considerations are usually much different – we are different when we are by the river, more open to exploration. And we find ourselves at a point where there is a lot to explore in the area. The landing could be where those journeys begin or end.

My last few visits to the restaurant there were spent doing a good deal of waiting and being pretty disappointed with the results as I watched visitors around me scrambling to figure out where they were, why the food was taking so long and why they couldn’t find out much of anything about what was just up the hill and to the east. We talk a lot about the riverfront becoming our front door. We can’t keep people waiting on the doorstep once they arrive.

So Patrick and Deni Reilly, the owners of the Majestic Grille, which is just up the bluff, are going to give the restaurant a go for the six months that begin after Memphis In May is done with its month-long run in Tom Lee Park. The RDC announced the agreement Monday and RDC president Benny Lendermon also talked with us about the relationship between the park, the landing and MIM. You could see some recommendations on that in the upcoming riverfront report.

Meanwhile, there are already some signs that Memphis In May is broadening its reach as the festival evolves. The Latino Memphis Festival this Saturday in Overton Park moved from its usual Cinco De Mayo proximity in a partnership with Memphis In May to the weekend between the music festival and the barbecue contest.

By the way, if you missed the American Queen docking Monday at Greenbelt Park, Queen of the Mississippi will be on the riverfront Friday, arriving at 8:45 a.m. and leaving the next day at 1:30 p.m. Since the Memphis In May International Festival has a down week in Tom Lee Park before the barbecue contest, we're not sure if the docking is at Beale Street Landing or Greenbelt Park – but whichever one it is, you will know pretty quickly. Hard to miss one of these big boats on the riverfront.

Back to Memphis In May… There was a protest along Poplar Avenue Saturday on the second day of the Beale Street Music Festival. The tent city in Morris Park was short-lived but a way of calling for a city operated free shelter for the homeless.

In our Commercial Real Estate Emphasis:

The latest on the end of Raleigh Springs Mall and the beginning of Raleigh Springs Town Center. And we find a bit of skepticism in Raleigh about this as well as optimism as the demolition of the mall is underway. This is a concept that has changed quite a bit when the idea was to get some city government usages in a mall that had clearly seen better days. Now it is no mall at all and a park-like setting. And since Mayor Jim Strickland took office in 2016, the city is now talking up the idea of commercial real estate joining the mix.

McLean Wilson talks about Crosstown Concourse, the revival project judged by many to be impossible that Wilson assembled the financing for. The grandson of Holiday Inns founder Kemmons Wilson also talked about the odds against third generation family businesses.

Speaking of multi-generational businesses, Colliers International has its roots in post-World War II Memphis.

In a few weeks you will see an item in our almanac about the bank of the future from 41 years ago. A local bank was about to do away with bank tellers in 1976 to move to a model where you went instead to someone behind a desk. That’s a recurring theme you see even today – a move away from tellers. But a new J.D. Power study shows the bricks and mortar banks are still important to bank consumers in a mix of high tech and retail banking. The study is part of a piece about new customer satisfaction data for First Tennessee.

The author of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption” speaks in a guest column about the state House resolution honoring him and in turn the Confederate General, slave trader and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Shane Kastler denies being a Forrest apologist and says African-American lawmakers who felt like they had been mislead by the resolution from state Rep. Mike Sparks were mislead about the resolution. “The resolution honored me, not Forrest,” Kastler writes. “And neither of us are racist. Forrest clearly was, but then God changed him.”

The story of Forrest’s “redemption” is a familiar one in decades of recurring controversy locally. It is built around a single speech Forrest gave to an African-American group after the Civil War, at a time when he was pursuing a railroad deal that ultimately didn’t work. It was also a time when former slaves were elected to office locally. It was called “radical Reconstruction” and it followed a period of violence against freed slaves that the Klan Forrest belonged to was a prominent part of. The goal was to intimidate the newly freed slave from asserting the freedom the end of the war meant. And the intimidation produced the opposite effect in Washington ever so briefly. That’s why Forrest called for the Klan to be disbanded. It was during that window that Forrest talked of racial reconciliation. It was before Confederate generals and other leaders returned to power and built a new system like the work farm that Forrest oversaw on Presidents Island using black convict labor toward the end of his life.

The broadcasting company that owns WREG TV has been bought by Sinclair Broadcast Group in a $3.9 billion deal. Tribune is the latest in a string of owners for WREG in the last 10 years. The New York Times Co. bought the television station from Cowles Communications in 1971. Cowles bought the station from its founder Hoyt Wooten a few years earlier.

The New York Times sold it along with the rest of its broadcast media group in 2007 to Oak Hill Capital Partners, a private equity firm which then created Local TV LLC as a holding group for its broadcasting properties. Local TV sold to Tribune Broadcasting in 2013.

Memphis playwright Katori Hall is the new artistic director of Hattiloo Theatre. Hall’s “The Mountaintop” was on Broadway in 2012 starting Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. The play is a fictionalized version of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last night at the Lorraine Motel.

Earlier we linked to a song from Don Bryant’s upcoming album. Here is Rolling Stone on Bryant’s effort, which drops Friday and a lot of Bryant’s back story with Hi Records and the Memphis soul classic he wrote, “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”

Rodney Carmichael of NPR on Marco Pave’s Memphis protest opus “Welcome to Grc Lnd.”

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396