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Memphis: DT Arena, Hotels, Apartments

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New arena, apartments, hotels will be part of Downtown in '04

Kate Miller Morton

Downtown sustained $2.3 billion worth of development in 2003, but only one project transformed the skyline.

Mostly a hole in the ground one year ago, the FedExForum now resembles the state-of-the-art arena Memphians were promised when their political leaders pledged $250 million in 2001.

Far from complete, the arena appears set to meet its mid-year 2004 scheduled opening within budget. The high-profile facility has already begun impacting the nearby area, where many abandoned and blighted houses have been demolished and overgrown lots cleared.

Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford remains mum about prospective development around the new arena, but says he anticipates some will begin coming to light next year.

"I would expect that we will get some announcements on the project in the neighborhood around the area including hotel and hopefully some residential projects," Sanford.

Much work remains to be done around the arena and funding for the needed infrastructure is far from certain.

The Center City Commission's three-year effort to establish a tax increment financing district in the central business improvement district suffered a resounding defeat when the Memphis City Council killed it on first reading.

The TIF was projected to collect between $160 million and $264 million from incremental increases in property taxes and taxes from expired PILOTs. The money would have helped pay for $615 million in public infrastructure improvements, catalytic projects and affordable housing.

"The resounding defeat of the TIF was a great disappointment, but the city council spoke in no uncertain terms," Sanford says. "Our job now is to pick up the pieces and try to find ways to fund much needed infrastructure projects in the Downtown area. We have submitted a recommendation to Mayor Herenton that certain projects be included in his '05 fiscal year capital improvement budget, but we'll simply have to defer to his judgment."

Infrastructure improvements are moving along in Uptown where developer The Uptown Partnership has completed construction on the 88-unit Greenlaw Place Apartments and nearly completed the first two phases of the 347-unit renovation of Lauderdale Courts, renamed Uptown Square.

16 leases have already been signed on the 88-unit Greenlaw Place, which has 22 units set aside for former public housing residents. Leasing of Uptown Square has been delayed by parking issues but will begin in January when the first 120 units are completed. 121additional units will be on the market the following month. Model units are already furnished and LEDIC Management Group has set up a leasing office.

11 single-family homes are under construction and should be completed in the second quarter. Uptown Partnership hopes to ramp up its single home development to nearly 100 a year beginning in 2004 and continuing through 2006.

Infrastructure and site work has already been done on the former Hurt Village site where some of the single family homes will be built and where construction of a 114-unit apartment complex will begin early next year.

Redevelopment is also progressing on the CCC's Main Street Demonstration Block between Union and Gayoso.

Partners Bob Williams and Huey Holden plan to finish the three apartments in their $3.2 million project at 87 and 93 S. Main sometime in the second quarter. The partners will officially begin pre-sale of the project's 18 condos in January and hope to have them completed by early third quarter. Two pent houses have already been sold, including one to Holden.

Work is expected to begin in the first quarter on a 23-story building near Main and Gayoso. The $40 to $45 million project will include a 440-space parking garage and 282 apartments.

CGI & Partners Court Square Center LLC will begin construction on its $29 million renovation of the Rhodes-Jennings, Court Annex and Lincoln American Tower buildings next year, creating 76 apartments, two offices and retail space.

Condo sales remained strong. Henry Turley Co. sold its last Paperworks condo and quickly sold out of its 17-unit Farrington project. The company has sold 50% of its Harbor Landing project, the last stage of Harbor Town, which has 89 units.

Faxon Gillis sold out its 28-unit Potters Lofts and has already acquired more land on the southern end of Downtown for its next project near Southland Cos.' South End project.

Site work has already begun for the first 100 condos in South End. Construction on the condos at the northeast corner of Tennessee and Georgia should begin in April.

Construction on 309 apartments at the southeast corner of Carolina and Florida also should begin in May. Site work for 160 condos between Carolina and Georgia, Florida and Kentucky could begin next year as well.

Despite Downtown's continued success, Sanford warns redevelopment will get more difficult from here, not easier.

"The easy projects have been done. From here on, particularly without a dedicated source of funding, we are going to have to be unusually inventive going into the next year," Sanford says.

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