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VOL. 133 | NO. 118 | Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Riverfront Change, Skeleton to Canopy and Summer Camp

By Bill Dries

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The two contenders for Shelby County Mayor in the Aug. 2 county general election – Democratic nominee Lee Harris and Republican nominee David Lenoir – meet for the first time in the general election campaign Wednesday at the Memphis Kiwanis Club weekly luncheon. It is the first of several debates between the two. And judging from what Harris and Lenoir have said separately and what we’ve reported from those appearances, this is a highly anticipated debate/discussion about the future of Shelby County on several fronts.

MRPP president Carol Coletta briefs the board of the partnership on the plan to make major changes to Tom Lee Park.

The plans for change along the riverfront are moving pretty quickly if tentatively. And they are changes to recent experiments and an institution or two. Beale Street Landing in the institution category whose restaurant won’t be reopening this summer. And the leader of the Memphis River Parks Partnership, Carol Coletta, talked Tuesday of a “restart” for the landing.

In the experiment category is RiverPlay – the set of recreational activities with basketball courts and skates for rent and similar undertakings. A year ago, RiverPlay made its debut on a closed-off section of Riverside Drive between Memphis Park and Mississippi River Park. When RiverPlay returns Friday it will be around Beale Street Landing – including the parking lot for the landing – and no blocking off traffic on Riverside.

Meanwhile, there is room in Tom Lee Park for trees and some hills as well as the Memphis In May International Festival, according to the consultants working with the Memphis River Parks Partnership. Coletta presented a plan Tuesday that comes in at an early estimate of $45 million.

A new Hilton hotel brand called Canopy would be the flag for the new hotel proposed for the site of what's left of the old Benchmark Hotel at Union Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard.

The skeleton hotel at Union and B.B. King will be a Hilton brand called Canopy. That is among the details the developers talked about as the project was approved by the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. Tuesday for a 15-year PILOT. One of the partners of Magna, the group that bought the property earlier this year, also said the previous owners, MNR Hospitality, probably never would have sold if the Downtown Memphis Commission hadn’t gone to court to have it declared a nuisance.

Summer camp at Bartlett Elementary is four weeks with lots of books and writing and talking about books and projects about books. It’s also one of more than 250 elementary school camps backed with state funding aimed specifically at low-income students who might not otherwise have the exposure to the books or the experiences that come with the camp. I got a look around Tuesday as Tennessee Education commissioner Candice McQueen toured the camp earlier this week. It was very easy to lose sight of all of the planning and coordination that goes into this much fun, but as the teachers and others involved in the camp said – everything done at this camp is with a purpose.

New leadership to come at Memphis Theological Seminary at the end of July.

There are two political contests – one for the August ballot and the other a set of races on the November ballot – that are still taking shape even as the rest of the races are set and heading for the ballot box via the county general election or the August state and federal primaries with winners advancing to the Nov. 6 ballot. Here’s where what’s left stands as of this week.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker sounds off on other Senate Republicans blocking his tariff amendment, per Roll Call.

Meanwhile several dozen Tennessee farmers including three former state agriculture commissioners urge U.S. House Republicans from Tennessee to oppose the tariffs.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander on pre-existing medical conditions and the Texas lawsuit over the constitutionality of the Obamacare provision – specifically the Trump Justice Department brief in the case:

“There’s no way Congress is going to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions who want to buy health insurance. The Justice Department argument in the Texas case is as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard. Congress specifically repealed the individual mandate penalty, but I didn’t hear a single senator say that they also thought they were repealing protections for people with pre-existing conditions. In fact, Republicans are seeking to expand insurance options for Americans with pre-existing conditions through a new Department of Labor rule that will make lower cost employer insurance with patient protections available to the self-employed and more employees of small businesses.”

Rising Ole Miss senior Breden Thornberry finished 26th in last weekend's FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Ole Miss senior Braden Thornberry after his respectable finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic this past Sunday.

Headliners for the October Mempho Music Festival at Shelby Farms Park promise lots of continued good buzz about the festival going into its second edition.

Expansion plans at a South Memphis call center that is part of a larger facility that provides post-sales support including failure analysis, repairs, packaging and supply chain management.

As of Monday evening the Universal Life Insurance sign at Danny Thomas and MLK Avenue is back – its neon visage visible in the Memphis summer night once again.

Atop our Memphis Newsmakers segment, Greg Schowen, the new general manager of Baptist Ambulance talks about being in EMS for more than 25 years including responding to the Las Vegas mass shooting last October.

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270