VOL. 133 | NO. 42 | Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Last Word: City Hall Fallout, 8Ball on Room 306 and Clark Tower Update
By Bill Dries
A group of students at Maxine Smith STEAM Academy at the Fairgrounds started the school week Monday with a gathering in a circle outside the art deco school building at Central and East Parkway in a student-led memorial for the students killed in Parkland, Florida almost two weeks ago. There was a moment of silence followed by reading the names of the 17 students who died in the massacre.
City Hall's reaction to Saturday's sanitation workers strike commemoration at the Orpheum continued to evolve as the week began.
This took a couple of days to get to this point – City Hall’s evolving reaction to the speaker booked for the city’s official commemoration of the 1968 sanitation workers strike Saturday. Angela Rye, a political commentator on CNN and NPR, was critical of the current administration for the way it has handled protests and activism in the here and now.
Mayor Jim Strickland was initially dismissive Saturday to some degree of Rye’s comments but also said his administration can handle the criticism. Then he posted Monday morning on social media with a detailed litany of facts he said Rye got wrong in her brief but memorable speech at the Orpheum. The post was on his campaign acount and not on the city's social media accounts. And the city has a new policy that includes reviewing those booked to speak at its official city events.
All of this and what has come before in the last two years seems to be coalescing around the 50th anniversary observances – official and unofficial – formal and informal – public and private. I think this was inevitable because what happened here 50 years ago is still relevant and it remains a big part of our civic identity. That's not the identity we put in tourism ads and brochures although it is there to some degree. It's not what you hear if you get a thumbnail rundown of the strike and Dr. Martin Luther King’s arrival in the city and in the midst of this cause. It’s the civic identity we struggle with among ourselves. Some of us want to talk about nothing but this. Others don’t want to address it at all. And more and more of us view it from an increasing distance but still see parts of the saga that look a lot like something that could happen tomorrow in Memphis.
The second anniversary of the assassination that I covered was in 1978 – 10 years after the event. Many of the players in the strike and in King’s inner circle were still active at that point. The names and faces I knew who had been most patient and most kind with a teenager from Frayser who by then was all of 19 years old helped with the names and faces I didn’t know at that point and even made a few introductions.
Looking back on it, I think 10 years out from the strike and the assassination there was less of a comparison or a presence of 1968 because most of the people involved were active in some of the same causes that had moved down the road a bit in a decade’s time. There is, I think, a big difference in the experience of people who were active in those times and those born after those times who also feel something very real – the reverberations from those events over a much longer period of time – at this point longer than King’s entire life.
And let’s add to the discussion a provocative video released last week by Memphian 8Ball featuring K Cutta called Room 306.
Tennessee Republicans are choosing their words very carefully these days, especially when it comes to the U.S. Senate race and the possibility that incumbent Republican Bob Corker may get back into the August primary. Blackburn was on MSNBC Monday -- with a transcript in The Tennessee Journal -- to talk about this and like Corker there were parts of this happening behind the scenes that she is just not talking about at least for now. I see the unmistakable hand of party leaders – some with party titles, some with no titles but more influence, in the wording being used for now – for now.
Emily Fulmer, a founder of Indivisible Memphis, is among those on both sides of the national and local political divide who are talking about something beyond reacting to the election of President Donald Trump in this midterm election year.
The sports company of Republican contender for Tennessee Governor Randy Boyd is now running a third minor league baseball team in Tennessee.
Blackburn and Corker were among those at the weekend Lincoln Day Gala, which was just one of many political events Republican and Democrat and inbetween going on around this overcast and rain-soaked city. What we heard at all of these events was a common theme of getting past the reaction to Donald Trump’s election last November and a realization by both sides for completely different reasons that Trump isn’t on the ballot this year.
Republican contender for Governor Randy Boyd is a candidate who runs – for office and literally, which can make things confusing at times. Add to that the concept of “playing ball” – politically and literally. Boyd Sports is his company that operates two minor league baseball teams in East Tennessee – the Tennessee Smokies in the Cubs farm system and the Johnson City Cardinals, affiliated with the Cardinals. And now word that Boyd Sports has an agreement to manage the Greeneville Reds. All affiliated with National League teams with the Astros farm club becoming a Reds farm club in Greeneville.
Jack Daniel on the hill in Nashville to fight a proposed whiskey barrel tax and push for an exemption to such a tax. This got rolling politically after an auditor in Moore County determined the barrels are taxable property which would come to $2.8 million a year for Jack Daniel.
Booked for Snowden Grove Amphitheater in Southaven July 25, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Drive-By Truckers and The Marcus King Band.
Clark Tower is getting a $9 million remake and some new tenants.
In our Commercial Real Estate Emphasis:
Renovations and upgrades to Clark Tower, which is 45 years old this year, to the tune of $9 million and some new tenants. When you think about it probably nothing ages faster than office space. Think about the office you might have worked in just 20 years ago and what it was like. There may be some sentiment involved in this so just to be safe now imagine doing what you do now in that space and a lot of the sentiment should be stripped away pretty quickly.
We talk with CRE owners about the impact of federal tax reform. Our experts agree the impact will be good. But everything isn’t spelled out in the bill, so one of our sources says you could see a CRE slowdown and the pace lose a step or two until Treasury clears up some definitions and how they will interpret parts of the act.
Chattanooga-based High Point Climbing is building a 40-foot high outside climbing wall with a view of Shelby Farms Park.
On the fun side of CRE – I know, that would be every side of CRE – High Point Climbing and Fitness is being built on Humphreys Boulevard. Some of you will think High Point refers to the Greenline area. But that is the name of the five-year old Chattanooga company that runs a group of outdoor climbing walls and gyms. The founder tells us the Humphreys Boulevard one by CBHS with a view of Shelby Farms Park from atop the 40 foot outdoor wall being built now is a “gateway to the outdoors.”
A $7.8 million permit coming across our desk Monday from FedEx for the Super Hub overhaul.
FedEx also responded Monday to criticism of its discount program for National Rifle Association members. The statement saying the discounts will continue but that FedEx differs with NRA policies, specifically the availability of assault rifles. The response was to Business Insider.
Before FedEx bought the Dutch firm TNT Express and its European network, UPS tried to buy TNT. But the merger was blocked by the European Union’s antitrust regulator. UPS is suing the EU for $2 billion over the blocked merger.
Signs of life at 100 North Main Building? It looks like a new set of lights have gone up around the city’s tallest building since the structure got new owners. Still a long way to go.
The touring production of "Hamilton" comes to the Orpheum in 2019 as part of a six-show Broadway season unveiled Monday evening Downtown.
The Orpheum's 2018-2019 Broadway season with more when next we meet on trends and the economics of picking touring shows to play the Orpheum.
In Little Rock, the Arkansas Legislature considers an amended bill that allows Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis to expand into the strict legal definition of casino gaming – slots in addition to video poker and what are considered games of skill.
Sherra Wright pleads not guilty at her Monday arraignment at 201 to charges she killed her ex-husband, Lorenzen Wright.