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Highland Strip (university area)

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This is very good news. This should help boost the university as it quietly becomes more competitive. From the state-of-the-art FedEx Institute of Technology and their biotech and robotic/AI research to the recently discovered Egyptian tomb to the move Downtown of the Law School to the #3 basketball team in the country, U of M is gaining some serious ground. Making the campus's surrounding area will help the school attract more students and spur more great things. And great things from the U of M means great things for Memphis.

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I hope they keep all the old buildings on the west side of Highland in the strip itself. I grew up in the Buntyn neighborhood in the 50's and remember the Big Star grocery, the Normal theater, a dime store, a barber shop, etc. in that block. Also, the great Little Pigs BBQ down the block. I remember being six and walking to the movies.

It'll be interesting to see a rendering. The article talks about remaking the whole area from Central to Park which is a large area.

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This is long overdue. I'm a UofM alum, and I lived in the area for about 8 years. There's real potential for the Highland Strip considering not only the University but also the health of the surrounding neighborhoods - particularly those to the NW (Buntyn) and SE.

I agree with Sleepy that they need to keep the old buildings on the west side of Highland, north of the railroad. They have some nice character and create a nice urban streetscape. There's a good block immediately south of the RR also - including the old building that housed Little Pigs BBQ and some other funky establishments (the comic book store might still be there). However, much of the east side (especially south of the RR) could stand to be cleared and rebuilt.

When I get back to town next week, I will try to go over there and get some photos.

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This is long overdue. I'm a UofM alum, and I lived in the area for about 8 years. There's real potential for the Highland Strip considering not only the University but also the health of the surrounding neighborhoods - particularly those to the NW (Buntyn) and SE.

I agree with Sleepy that they need to keep the old buildings on the west side of Highland, north of the railroad. They have some nice character and create a nice urban streetscape. There's a good block immediately south of the RR also - including the old building that housed Little Pigs BBQ and some other funky establishments (the comic book store might still be there). However, much of the east side (especially south of the RR) could stand to be cleared and rebuilt.

When I get back to town next week, I will try to go over there and get some photos.

Isn't St. Agnes school on the east side south of the RR? Is it even open?

I had a bunch of friends who used to go there.

Look forward to your pics.

I remember when the Big Star grocery was on Highland and used to deliver. They had guys on weird-looking bicycles--tiny little front wheels with a big basket on top and regular rear wheels. That's one of my oldtime childhood memories of the Buntyn neighborhood. On Reese St. where I lived, an elderly really classic Southern Lady always had her groceries delivered. She used to drink Jack Daniels frequently, and by the time I was 16, I'd go to visit and she'd always offer my friends and me a drink--"just don't tell your Momma!"

A bunch of old southern memories.

Anyone old enough to remember Mario's restaurant on Park near Highland? Mario was an old Italian immigrant who had represented Italy's bicycle team during some Olympics in the 20's or 30's. Anyway, you'd walk in the door--the place was filled with pics of him on his bike--and he'd always challenge the customers to punch his thigh, showing off how muscular he was at age 70 something.

He served wine to anyone who was about 12 or older. Once a group of us rode our bikes over there to drink and eat--we were too young to drive. He poured out the wine and there was a fly in it. He got offended when we pointed it out, saying that it was a "wine fly", integral to the fermentation process. :P

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Isn't St. Agnes school on the east side south of the RR? Is it even open?

Still there, and still open as far as I know. You can still hear the chimes on the hour, at least at certain times during the day.

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Still there, and still open as far as I know. You can still hear the chimes on the hour, at least at certain times during the day.

ya its still open, i have a few friends still in high school who go there.

they transfered to it, when Cordova High went Memphis city.

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ya its still open, i have a few friends still in high school who go there.

they transfered to it, when Cordova High went Memphis city.

I guess I'm confusing schools. St. Agnes High School is the girls school right off of Walnut Grove? I take it that's where your friends go.

The school I'm talking about was a Catholic elementary-middle school on Highland just south of the tracks on the east side of the street. Maybe it was St. Anna's or something else.

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yeah it's st. anne's on highland...i had some friends at cbhs who went there for grade school.

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This project is going to be the spark that sets off a revitalization of the area, it will be the single greatest achievement for the University neighborhood. U of M and the city of Memphis need this to happen, it will create a sense of place for the University district, enrollment and investment will immediately rise. THIS is what U of M needs, not an on campus stadium.

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Interesting debate on whether the area is blighted enough to deserve TIF district for the project. What is the area like?

It was marginal enough to qualifty according to the Community Redevelop Agency, so the debate sounds like it might be more political than substantial.

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Designating that area as blight is really gaming the system. The houses on the streets that back up to Highland are bungalows, but are probably in the $150,000+ range. There is nothing in that spot that's close to what anyone other than an interested real estate developer would call blighted.

The properties that they're talking about, if I'm not mistaken, are a well-maintained church and an empty but beautifully wooded lot. And the only reason it's empty is because somebody bought the mansions that used to be there and bulldozed them in anticipation of future development. Like 9 out of 10 speculative demolitions, it didn't come to pass. Adjoining the property is a beautiful mansion that houses a major foundation in Memphis (name escapes me).

I'm not against the development, but the blight justification for tax increment financing stinks. Redevelopment of a blighted area is the one of fews places where TN municipalities can seize property through eminent domain and then resell it to other private parties. That's not what's happening here. But it could, if a governmental body gets that itch, or a real estate developer makes them itchy.

If they can call that area blighted, no home in Memphis is safe.

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^not staying very true to your moniker...but I too hope the project happens, but not because I think it's blighted, because I don't, but because the area and the University deserve it and need it.

Quote from the article above:

According to a Community Redevelopment Agency report, the area was deemed blighted due to unsanitary or unsafe conditions, a faulty lot layout, deterioration of site improvements and inadequate parking facilities.

The same report also showed that CRA staff viewed the "degree of blight may or may not be deemed 'predominate or substantial.'"

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This is slightly off topic, but how is progress on the midrise building going up on highland across from Gill's/Newby's, etc ?

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Interesting debate on whether the area is blighted enough to deserve TIF district for the project. What is the area like?

It was marginal enough to qualifty according to the Community Redevelop Agency, so the debate sounds like it might be more political than substantial.

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Adjoining the property is a beautiful mansion that houses a major foundation in Memphis (name escapes me).

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I love this city and think that it can be a great one, but right now it's not and will not be until sprawl, crime, poverty, education, racial divides and many other factors are addressed.

This city has so much potential but I sometimes feel like it will never be realized.

^not staying very true to your moniker...but I too hope the project happens, but not because I think it's blighted, because I don't, but because the area and the University deserve it and need it.

Quote from the article above:

As I recall, the sidewalks in the area are in very poor condition, but beyond that I'm not sure where this assessment fits. Maybe the faulty lot layout is true, but I'm not sure how that constitutes "blight". I'm also not sure what inadequate parking has to do with anything--it seems that would be an inherent part of redevelopment (blighted or not) since existing development is based on codes and parking requirements 40+ years old. Plus, parking is not necessarily a public improvement--it's typically based upon and individual development's or business's size and proposed use, and it is much more often privately owned and maintained rather than publicly.

The only area in very close proximity to the University that could, in my opinion, be considered "blighted" (and even it's a stretch as far as I'm concerned) would be the area south of Southern to Goodlett that inlcudes mostly student rental housing. But that's not a part of this project. Between Highland and Prescott, there are small but fair or better condition houses. And, along Highland, it's mostly commercial properties and churches--perhaps some of the commercial properties are in poor enough condition to call "blighted", but I don't personally agree.

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I think the debate is factual, not political.

I grew up in that neighborhood, and while that was decades ago, I've been back frequently. The two blocks south of Central is extremely nice. It's nowhere near blighted. Memphis has enough real blight, and this doesn't qualify by any stretch. It's one of the nicest areas in "old" East Memphis.

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Doesn't Nashville use TIF's for projects there? I wouldn't consider most of Nashville to be blighted but somehow there's is used, right?

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^ There are several parts of Nashville that are blighted and many more that could be classified as so. It might not be as evident or severe in many places, but Nashville has its own problem areas with blight and decay - as does virtually every city.

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Not being from Memphis it's hard for me to tell aside from what I read in articles, but from what I'm hearing from people familar with this area of the city is that it did indeed qaulify by some dubious qualifications compared to other blighted areas of the city which would normally qualify.

So the question I have now is - Should a TIF be employed here? Is it a bad precedent?

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