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VOL. 133 | NO. 113 | Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Our Un-Signature, City Hall Beat Down and Lamar Avenue

By Bill Dries

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The first thing most people notice when they realize there is lots of development going on in Memphis but that its quite different than Nashville’s brand of development is that you don’t see nearly as many construction cranes here as you do there. It’s become an un-signature of sorts for what is an ongoing remake of Memphis. We adapt and use for new purposes. We also move institutions around, it turns out.

With that in mind, there is a still-forming idea about moving the National Ornamental Metal Museum on the riverfront to what is now the Memphis College of Art in Overton Park. MCA closes in 2020, part of a larger change at Overton Park with The Brooks preparing to move to the riverfront.

The metal museum has a key piece of riverside real estate on the very edge of the bluff by the trio of old bridges across the Mississippi River. Immediately behind it on the bluff is the old Marine Hospital. The hospital has been awaiting redevelopment as residential in an area that could open up if the state ever gets around to building a roundabout that gives non I-55 traffic a way off the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge and into the French Fort neighborhood and general area. And that prospect may be the most complex discussion we have had to date about the balance of new development and preserving existing solid neighborhoods -- French Fort’s stability and the prospect of residential development jumping Crump Boulevard.

Once every three or four budget seasons it gets by me – the wording of the city ordinance that does not spell out specifically – “This is the city operating budget – the nine-figure basic instrument that makes the vast majority of city government undertakings possible on a daily, even hourly basis.” Instead the wording is: “Ordinance appropriating the proceeds of the tax levy on the assessed values on all properties of every species within the city limits for general purposes for the fiscal year July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2018, up for Third and Final reading.” I won’t try to evade this, even though this ordinance includes the word “species.” I’ll just say it got past me until I was into the council day Tuesday and our advancer story had already run its incorrect course. SPECIES.

Mea culpa now dealt with, there was a political beat down of sorts as City Hall ended its budget season Tuesday with final votes on the $87 million capital budget, a $3.19 property tax rate adjusted because of the current fiscal year’s revenue windfall and yes, a $685 million operating budget. Council member Worth Morgan was the only ripple in the otherwise smooth passage of all of this in his call to move the line item for buying new police patrol cars from capital to operating. Most of the other council members were having none of this and as council debates go this was pretty brutal. Here is the complete rundown of all matters budget and other matters including a referendum question intended for the November ballot that died for lack of a second on third and final reading Tuesday.

A $71.2 million federal grant announced Tuesday will go toward a widening of Lamar Avenue in an upgrade of the city's major freight corridor.

Magna Hospitality is the new owner of the shell of the old Benchmark Hotel at Union and B.B. King with plans to demolish what left of it and build a new four-star hotel.

Federal funding comes through for Lamar Avenue after several swings and misses. The grant announced Tuesday afternoon is for $71.2 million, half as much as the grant sought two years ago under the Feds Fastlane program. But it puts the timeline for a widening of Lamar from Getwell to the state line and truck-friendly interchanges at under a decade when combined with existing state funding that is at the right of way acquisition stage last time we checked.

The saga of the skeleton hotel continues on the northwest corner of Union and B.B King. What used to be the Benchmark Hotel before a group of new owners decided to demolish most of it but not all of it and then stop so those passing through one of the busiest intersections Downtown could see it has now been sold to a Rhode Island company. Magna Hospitality says it has plans to take down what’s left of the previous hotel, but not until early 2019, and build a new four-star hotel for $42 million. Those plans are in the paperwork for the 15-year tax break Magna is seeking from the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. at its meeting next Wednesday.

Don Wade with notes in advance of Thursday’s opening of the FedEx St. Jude Classic at Southwind and items on the Grizz off-season, Billy “Spook” Murphy and the Tigers in the Naismith Memorial Game.

More notes of the political kind from the very hot campaign trail on the way to an even hotter summer.


A look at how First Bank made its decision to set up shop in the TraVure development in Germantown.

Rockwell Automation, which has three locations in Memphis, announces Tuesday it is consolidating operations to Boone County, Indiana from their operations here and in Champaign, Illinois. No word yet on whether that means all three of the facilities here. This takes effect next year.

Billboard on the new music being made in old places in Memphis instead of Nashville or Austin.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s first African-American leader.

Atop our Memphis Newsmakers segment, Anne Ross, new marketing director at Hollywood Feed who has five years in the pet retail industry and hears the musical theater calling.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047