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VOL. 132 | NO. 221 | Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Fairgrounds Surprises, Aquarium Reprise and Six Open Commission Seats

By Bill Dries

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There are lots of renderings and blueprints floating around this city of ours these days. Land opening up, locations changing, possibilities revealed, new uses for old places and old places giving way to new. So it’s not surprising to see some smaller changes that are nevertheless highly visible. Thus comes word with the new week that Spin City, the corner tenant at Poplar and Highland in Poplar Plaza, will close with the new year and Spaghetti Warehouse, on Huling Downtown, will close later this month in the week before Thanksgiving.

Spin City was a combination of Tower Records and Blockbuster except without the rentals. There was plenty of music paraphernalia to go with it and a big Elvis figure in the big display window that dominates the visuals on that corner. Over several summers Elvis was starting to fade out which was probably an indication. Spaghetti Warehouse exits in a South Main area that is undergoing a lot of change. How about a new Captain Bilbo’s slightly south of the original?

The move closer to litigation over opioid addiction that some county commissioners moved closer to has resulted in a lawsuit filed Monday in Chancery Court by Shelby County government against commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer. More details on this coming up Tuesday morning. Shafer announced last week the hiring of special counsel to explore a lawsuit against big pharma to recover damages to pay for county government services to deal with the drug problem. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is talking about this more late Tuesday morning.

Now to the renderings, here is a comprehensive account of the city administration’s still tentative plan for Fairgrounds redevelopment. The administration spilled the beans on much of this last week, most notably that they will keep the Mid-South Coliseum mothballed for now because they don’t see a viable plan for its use that won’t run into red ink for the city. But there were a few surprises in what was revealed Monday evening at the Kroc Center like a renovation and reuse of the old Melrose High School building in Orange Mound. We also talked with the city’s consultant on the sports complex where Libertyland used to be that is the anchor of the project. And we’ve included the city’s entire 62-page Power Point presentation for you to digest.

The meeting itself was contentious at times but definitely some different opinions in the standing room only crowd of 300. The Coliseum cost estimates drew jeers and boos and at the very end there were chants of “Mothball Strickland” as well as matching signs. The Melrose proposal drew applause. There were some who backed the pursuit of the sports complex while others didn’t think the city had made the case to bridge the gap between a Fairgrounds with something to draw visitors and also something for Memphians. We’ll go even deeper on this when next we meet.

The group behind the aquarium proposed for Mud Island River Park is the same group – more or less – that proposed an aquarium for the pre-Bass Pro Shops Pyramid almost a decade ago. The city’s consultant on this effort also talked with us at length about the concept which is actually a string or “necklace” of smaller aquariums and exhibits between a large one at the Gulf of Mexico on the Riverwalk and another large one at the River Museum building – one saltwater and the other freshwater. Peter Chermayeff is also a big fan of the Riverwalk and the Mud Island setting after the pursuit all those years ago on the other side of the harbor.

Here are the three options for the expansion of the Memphis Zoo parking lot that Powers Hill has designed for the committee working out the specifics of how this will work – all to take effect by January 2019 by which date all overflow zoo parking on the greensward is to end. Yes, renderings are included here as well. We are all about the PDFs – and by we, I mean Yvette Touchet, Holly Weber and Kate Simone who keep me from taking this website into unrecoverable oblivion multiple times during the course of a workday.

Make that six open seats on the Shelby County Commission for the 2018 ballot. In addition to the five county commissioners who are term-limited, commissioner David Reaves announced in a Facebook post over the weekend that he will not be running for a second term next year in District 3. Reaves cited the demands of elected office and balancing that with home life and his family.

“Trying to figure out the highest and best use. I found them. And they won't be as a county commissioner. They will be played out on the soccer field, in the gym, on the football field, in the kitchen, at church, on a date with my wife, on the phone with my parents, or having coffee with my aging grandfather. Four more years. I can do a lot with 4 more years. I will do a lot with 4 more years. But I won't be a politician for the next 4 years.”

Meanwhile, a change of location Tuesday morning for the last 4.3 miles of Randy Boyd’s run from Mountain City to Memphis. The Republican contender for governor will end his trek across the state at Beale Street Landing instead of Mud Island.

Here are the three finalists Gov. Bill Haslam is currently considering for the Criminal Court Judge vacancy to be created at the end of the year when James Beasley Jr. retires.

If it's Tuesday this must be council day at City Hall and the resurrection of universal prekindergarten is up for discussion in committee sessions today.

Notes from last week’s Daily News Seminar on commercial real estate include some pushback on the idea that bricks and mortar retail is all going away. At least in Memphis, our panel said, the big boxes have gone but not smaller stores. And job losses in retail are becoming job gains in distribution. But e-commerce is a real force.

In our Higher Education Emphasis:

Three of the city’s higher education institutions are being led by women and we talked with all three about the challenges and opportunities facing higher education across three very different environments.

Mapping out all of the physical changes underway on the University of Memphis campus from Poplar all the way across Park Avenue and the plans beyond the recent openings and groundbreakings.

And while the University of Memphis changes at Lambuth in Jackson are a part of that scope of work, we wanted to focus on the Jackson campus specifically where six years ago the private school shut down and then became part of a state university and then started to grow.

It’s a bit early for year-end reviews but there is little doubt that the executives at AutoZone will not look back with fond memories on 2017. And a new analyst report on the publicly-traded Memphis-based company suggests the troubles aren’t done given an uptick in gas prices nationally and Americans driving fewer mile.

Gift cards to Tennessee State Parks.

The state of Arkansas has taken over the Earle School District citing fiscal issues.

PROPERTY SALES 28 290 16,197
MORTGAGES 33 165 10,087
BUILDING PERMITS 184 608 38,544
BANKRUPTCIES 33 125 7,597