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VOL. 132 | NO. 183 | Thursday, September 14, 2017

Soulsville Gateway Has 2nd Site

By Bill Dries

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The South Memphis Alliance is about to close on a 52,923-square-foot warehouse on South Bellevue at Walker Street, the second part of a hard-fought gateway to the Soulsville area that has been in the works for the past five years.

Reginald Milton

SMA executive director and Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton says the renovated circa 1948 warehouse is about a $3 million project that will house the SMA offices, which are now next to the warehouse.

The project will also house a technical college for job training, a food program for the poor and a nonprofit incubator. The nonprofits in the incubator will pay 25 percent of full rent the first year, 50 percent the second year and 75 percent the third year with a new nonprofit the fourth year.

The South Memphis Alliance is a nonprofit that works with foster children who age out of foster care as young adults and still need assistance.

It is next to SMA headquarters and a laundromat SMA refurbished in 2012 at about the same time a vacant dairy on the other side of Bellevue was demolished as part of the Soulsville gateway plans.

“In many ways the laundromat is the model for this larger project,” Milton said. “It’s a resource center with a laundromat in it because the goal is to go where the people are. It’s been a huge success.”

A rotating group of two dozen social services agencies have used the laundromat over the last year as a meeting place to offer their services to those from the neighborhood using the laundromat.

Milton said a physician is considering opening up a clinic or office in the building as well.

The money made by the laundromat has paid for it with no funders needed.

“Throughout the year, many times, we actually will turn the machines off so that they will not take coins and we let the public come in and use them for free,” Milton said.

The plans for the site where the dairy once stood have been slower in developing with some changes. Originally it was to be a site for nonprofits and similar ventures.

That changed as the recession that began in 2008 was slow to lift particularly for the ambitious development plans in Soulsville. Among the casualties was plans for a grocery store or supermarket in the nearby Soulsville Town Center.

The dairy site’s updated plans are mixed use – 80 to 90 apartment units with retail on the ground floor.

“We’re attempting to rebuild and regrow the Soulsville area,” Milton said. “This is at the entrance of Soulsville. The goal is if we can build up an entry way to Soulsville, it will help to spur more growth in that area as well as spur growth for activity in the core of Soulsville.”

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