Convention Center Work Estimated at $100M-$200M

Memphis City Council members approved Tuesday, Oct. 3, a $10 million advance of city funding for the renovation of the Memphis Cook Convention Center. The city funding goes to pay some expenses already incurred in the planning and design.

City chief operating officer Doug McGowen told council members the renovation will cost $100 million to $200 million and will be financed with $5.5 million annually in hotel-motel tax revenue and $6 million in sales tax revenue generated in the Downtown Tourism Development Zone. McGowen said a more specific cost estimate should be available once final bids are in next March.

The renovation, which would increase the number of meeting rooms, put a new exterior on the building and offer river views on the west side of the center where there currently aren’t any, is to be completed in September 2019.

In other matters Tuesday, the council approved third and final reading of an ordinance that allows homebuilders to work in residential areas on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Councilman Frank Colvett said he heard from a homebuilder who had to stop work on a Saturday after neighbors complained. That prompted the move to a specific ordinance for areas that are considered residential.

The council also adopted on the first of three readings two sets of the latest amendment to the Unified Development Code – a regular process to take into account changing conditions since the passage of the original UDC in 2010. One of the two sets of changes is devoted exclusively to more specific standards for signs and billboards, including those converted to digital displays.

Josh Whitehead, planning director for the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Planning and Development, estimated 95 percent of the signs across the city are out of compliance with sign regulations that he described as “Germantownesque.”

The more specific rules are designed to make the standards easier to understand and thereby get those owning the signs to comply.

– Bill Dries

Constant Aviation Inks Deal Near Airport

Cleveland, Ohio-based Constant Aviation recently signed a lease to occupy 33,950 square feet at 3720 Distriplex Drive near the intersection of Getwell Road and Shelby Drive.

Hank Martin and Elliot Embry with NAI Saig Co. represented the landlord, Net Magan doing business as NM Getwell LLC, in the transaction. Charles Severe with Crump Commercial represented the tenant.

Cross Comm National LLC, the previous tenant, recently expanded within the park, which created the opening for Constant Aviation.

Built in 1994, the Class A warehouse sits on 1.7 acres and was last appraised at $1.3 million by the Shelby County Assessor.

Patrick Lantrip

Women In Law Conference Focuses on Biz Development

The inaugural Women in Law and Leadership Conference Oct. 13 will feature speakers and discussions on business development leadership and management.

The conference, hosted by the Association for Women Attorneys, is from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, 6225 Humphreys Blvd.

Among the presenters are keynote speakers Anita Vaughn, the former CEO of the hospital for women, and Jennifer Dziura, the founder of

Other speakers include retired Shelby County Circuit Court Judges Robert Childers, who will speak on “Mindfulness in the Law,” and Marla Presley, a labor and employment attorney and litigation manager of Jackson Lewis’ Pittsburgh office, who will present “Under My Umbrella: Women Rainmakers.”

The event also will feature two panel discussions. The Women and Leadership panel will feature retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder; retired Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Karen R. Williams; Keri Wright, CEO of Universal Asset Management; and Erica Coopwood, president-elect of Junior League of Memphis. And the Hanging Your Own Shingle panel will feature Jennifer Kiesewetter of Kiesewetter Law Firm and Renee Castle of Pfrommer & Castle.

Walk-up registrations are welcome, but attendees are asked to register by Oct. 11 to guarantee a spot, which will include lunch. For details, visit

– Bill Dries

Memphis in May Gets New VP of Operations

Floyd Benson has been promoted to vice president of operations for the Memphis in May International Festival, MIM officials announced Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Benson spent seven years as the venue manager of BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove in Southaven before rejoining the Memphis in May organization a year ago as director of operations. He had worked previous stints at MIM in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s that totaled nearly 10 years with the organization.

As VP of operations, he’ll oversee the production and coordination of all events included in the monthlong festival.

– Bill Dries

Orion Medical District Branch Wins LEED Certification

Orion Federal Credit Union’s recently opened branch at 821 Poplar Ave. has earned LEED Silver certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building program.

The Medical District building was built on a remediated brownfield site, once home to a gas station. The site was inactive, contaminated and rundown.

Orion CEO Daniel Weickenand said the development was about more than “reactivating a dead street corner.” The plan and construction of the building was guided by sustainable design and building principles that took into account social, environmental and economic priorities, resulting in a building that is more energy-efficient, uses less water and has a higher indoor air quality.

– Andy Meek

Tigers QB Ferguson Named Campbell Trophy Semifinalist

University of Memphis senior quarterback Riley Ferguson has been named as a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete.

Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Ferguson stands in the top five of several career passing categories at Memphis. He is fourth in program history in passing yards and touchdowns. A native of Matthews, North Carolina, he threw for 3,698 yards and a school-record 32 touchdowns last season, and ranked second in the American Athletic Conference with 284.5 yards passing per game and a 152.7 passer efficiency rating. His 3,698 passing yards rank second only to 2016 NFL First Round draft pick Paxton Lynch in the Memphis record book.

Off the field, Ferguson has compiled a 3.21 GPA as an interdisciplinary studies major and has volunteered at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.

“In my opinion the Campbell Trophy is the top award in college football,” Memphis head coach Mike Norvell said in a statement. “It’s prestigious because it covers all grounds. It looks at the individual, the student, the things they do away from the field and takes into account what they do on the field. It is a tremendous honor that Riley is a semifinalist for it.”

The NFF will announce 12 to 14 finalists on Nov. 1, and each of them will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments. The finalists will travel to New York City for the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 5, where one member of the class will be declared as the winner of the 28th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.

– Don Wade