VOL. 133 | NO. 170 | Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Memphis City Council Considers Surface Parking Lot at Main and Beale
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members vote Tuesday, Aug. 28, on a special-use permit to turn the land on the northeast corner of South Main Street and Beale Street into a surface parking lot with landscaping.
The 29 parking spaces proposed where Tri-State Bank headquarters stood until earlier this year would go with the existing nearby 54-space parking lot at a key Downtown intersection.
An LLC connected to Belz Enterprise is seeking the special-use permit for 10 years with a possible extension of five more years for the parking lot.
“The property was acquired with the view of ultimately placing a full-service hotel at this location; however the current glut of downtown hotel development and the vagaries of the shifting marketplace for hotel rooms have placed these plans on hold temporarily,” wrote attorney Nathan Bicks in the letter of intent from 180 South Main LLC. “The additional parking spaces and associated improvements will allow the site to be upgraded and utilities while the ultimate commercial development is planned and executed.”
The letter of intent includes plans for a landscaping buffer along Main and Beale as well as public art commissioned by Belz for the property.
The proposal has drawn support from the neighboring Orpheum Theatre, but opposition from the Downtown Memphis Commission.
“I can state unequivocally that the Orpheum Theatre Group supports this proposal,” wrote Orpheum president and CEO Brett Batterson. “As the South Main area continues to be developed, which is tremendous for the Orpheum, parking becomes more valuable to the theatre. To put it bluntly, without adequate area parking, the Orpheum and the neighborhood would suffer irreparable harm.”
Brett Roler, DMC vice president of planning and development, noted in his letter to planning officials that the Unified Development Code bars new surface parking lots as a stand-alone use Downtown.
“Simply put, new surface parking lots are antithetical to the kind of Downtown that our community is working so hard to create,” he wrote, terming a special use permit in this case “a disastrous precedent.”
“We know of several examples where an owner would have demolished an existing building Downtown and replaced it with a new paid parking lot if allowed,” Roler wrote. “While a pay-to-park surface lot can make good economic sense for the property owner, it can come at the expense of the neighborhood. … We must concern ourselves with the long-term public interest.”
Roler also cited the DMC’s study of Downtown parking that is currently underway. The study could dramatically change parking to put a priority on moving parking areas away from the city’s riverfront as the city pursues a concept plan for riverfront redevelopment.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day.
Council members will discuss and review the Main and Beale proposal at a 1:30 p.m. committee session.
Council members get a look Tuesday at the reorganization plan for Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division in a 10:30 a.m. committee session. MLGW president J.T. Young has named James West to the new position of chief customer officer at an annual salary of $225,000, and Terica Lamb to the new post of economic and community development manager earning $114,454 annually.
The council will vote on the appointments, which Young says do not add to the utility’s budget for the current fiscal year. The utility currently has a position of vice president of customer service.
West held a similar position at the public utility district in Everett, Washington. Lamb was manager of community outreach and financial empowerment in the county trustee’s office.
The council also will consider a special use permit by Weoffer LLC and developer Cameron Ellis for an apartment building at 1368 Monroe Ave. east of Cleveland. Weoffer is proposing an eight-unit apartment complex in a quadraplex design with a breezeway connecting them. The land is currently the site of the burnt out remains of the Buccaneer Lounge.
The development has drawn concern from MERI – Medical Education and Research Institute – which is nearby at 44 S. Cleveland.
Diana Kelly, manager of institutional development for MERI, expressed concerns in a letter about plans for parking and the quality of the project.
In other planning and development items, the council votes Tuesday on a proposed construction landfill on Shelby Oaks Road at Summer Avenue and a day care center at 2538 James Road.
Votes on both items were delayed at the council session two weeks ago.
The de-annexation ordinances of the Rocky Point and Southwind/Windyke communities are on the agenda for the second of three required readings.
Nine resolutions totaling $8.6 million would appropriate capital funding to the Memphis Area Transit Authority for items ranging from new fixed route buses and paratransit buses to land acquisition costs and design services toward relocating MATA headquarters off its current Levee Road site in North Memphis.
The largest item in the appropriation resolutions is $5.5 million, the local share of funding for “advanced public transportations systems” or technology for traffic control signals and similar devices.
The council reviews a resolution Tuesday designating approximately $600,000 from the Beale Street cover charge to buy and install more substantial car barriers for the entertainment district.
And during the 2 p.m. executive session, council members have the second discussion in as many weeks about recommendations for crowd control in the district by the Beale Street Task Force.
Those recommendations include consideration to reinstitute the cover charge for Saturday after 10 p.m. during the spring and summer peak on Beale. The council first cut the $10 cover charge to $5 and then abolished it entirely last November.
Council members indicated at their Aug. 14 discussion that they were willing to approve the funding for the barriers but wanted a fuller discussion, including any restoration of the cover charge.