A rendering shows the proposed Union Row development in downtown Memphis.(Photo: Image from CCRFC-TIF Application)CONNECT>TWEET>LINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE
Good morning from Memphis, where the Memphis Grizzlies and player Chandler "Chancun" Parsons have parted ways, perhaps for good. But first...
The proposed $950 million Union Row development — the largest mixed-use project in Downtown Memphis history — could usher the city into its new "build up, not out" era.
Or — the development could flop, as so many others have.
The risk of subsidizing another problem property is giving at least one Memphis City Council member pause as the council looks Tuesday at loaning $50 million through the Center City Revenue Finance Corporation for a parking garage for Union Row, our Jamie Munks reports. The proposed funding is in addition to $100 million in tax-increment financing already approved by the council. From Jamie's story:
Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones, who chairs the council’s economic development committee, said Friday he has concerns about the additional request.
“It’s been expressed to us that this project cannot be done without public support,” Jones said. “But how much public support is too much?”
Renderings of the proposed Union Row development in downtown Memphis. (Photo: Image from CCRFC-TIF Application)
That's a very good question — and a tough one to answer. When do incentives cross the line and become corporate handouts? Here are two answers that come to mind:
When developers receive a far greater benefit than the public. If taxpayers are foregoing tax revenue, they should expect to see the benefit within their lifetimes.
When incentives become necessary for the project's completion. Sometimes a project is happening and it's just a question of where. In that case, it makes sense to entice a development to your city instead of a competing city. But when incentives make the difference between whether a project happens at all — well, that's another ballgame. The city takes on the role of an investor, and it can make good or bad investments, depending on the riskiness of the project. The renovation of the Sears Crosstown building, for example, was a low-risk gamble that paid off.
On its face, Union Row seems to violate both of these principles. Union Row is, first and foremost, as its projected rents show, a speculative development aimed at the wealthy. Of course, rich people need somewhere to live, too. And the tax revenues could trickle down to the rest of the city in the form of tax revenues and neighboring developments. But the project doesn't seem to directly benefit the public, as a whole.>Buy Photo
Hundreds of children in costumes attend the Creep Sweep Trunk or Treat at the Crosstown Concourse Plaza Wednesday Oct. 31, 2018. (Photo: Ariel Cobbert, The Commercial Appeal)
Also, the developers don't have the funding to finish the project themselves, so they're looking to the city and the Downtown Memphis Commission for money. They have no tenants, as far as the public knows. They haven't even secured all of the parcels yet. In contrast, Sears Crosstown had tenants lined up and a big private donor when it approached the city for incentives. Other than very fine renderings, what assurances have Union Row developers given that they can shepherd the project to completion?
Maybe Jones and the rest of the Memphis City Council will ask these questions Tuesday. Because Memphians deserve answers before they commit $150 million to a big idea that runs the risk of becoming another big, empty eyesore in a city full of them.
Grizzlies, Chandler Parsons part ways>Buy Photo
Chandler Parsons, right, high-fives teammates during the Grizzlies open practice and scrimmage for fans at the FedExForum on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Photo: Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal)
Mark makes a very good case that Parsons, for all of his faults and failings, wasn't the real problem. The real problem was the front office, led by General Manager Chris Wallace, that hired Parsons. From Mark's column:
This isn’t about the end of an error. This is about an organization that continues to make them.
This is about a front office that just paid Parsons $1,293,678.40 per game, $188,811.20 per point, and $66,882.81 per minute if he never puts on a Grizzlies jersey again.
The is about a franchise that could have placed $94 million in the middle of FedExForum, lit it on fire and gotten more bang for their buck.
At least that would have been an entertaining halftime show.
Speaking of basketball: The Memphis Tigers lost to Houston 90-77 on Sunday, our Jason Munz reports. The only good news from the game: Kareem Brewton Jr. had a career-high 25 points and Mike Parks Jr. had a new baby.
Germantown Country Club apartments?
Germantown Country Club to close Memphis Commercial Appeal
As the Germantown Country Club prepares to close this year, the question is, what will take its place? And the fear in Germantown is that the answer will be apartments.
However, that's not very likely, our Desiree Stennett reports. The property is in a residential zone — and the city isn't likely to rezone, considering statements like these:
"I will not support a proposal to rezone or develop this land for multi-family housing, nor will I support Smart Growth zoning for the area," Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo said in an email statement. "If the property does not remain as a country club, any changes will occur with regard for the interests of all adjoining property owners."
Shelby County riles state lawmakers
The Shelby County attorney concluded a new state law is so vague it could force indefinite detention of some immigrants. Jail photos by Brad Vest. Daniel Connolly, The Commercial Appeal
Shelby County just royally ticked off some powerful lawmakers in state government.
Shelby County announced recently that it wouldn't comply with a state law requiring its jail to detain suspected undocumented immigrants without a warrant or probable cause. Well, here's how the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives responded:
The announcement drew a swift rebuke from Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker nominee Glen Casada, who helped push through the law that took effect Tuesday.
"Shelby County needs to reevaluate their position," McNally said in a statement. "As outlined in the law, continued refusal will result in the forfeit of state economic and community development grants which would negatively affect the local economy in Shelby County."
Casada said the sheriff's statement calls for a "serious discussion."
"The sheriff would be working directly against the will of Shelby Countians and the legislature if he decided to disobey state law in this way," Casada said in a statement.
Speaking of the legislature: The session is just getting started. Joel Ebert, who covers the legislature for us from Nashville, gives an overview of what's new this year.
- A fire that killed four people in Collierville was probably started by an ember from the fireplace landing on a Christmas tree, Micaela Watts reports.
- In the deadly Arkansas bus crash that killed a boy from Orange Mound, the bus was reportedly going too fast when it ran off an exit ramp, our Micaela Watts reports.
- Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman is seeking re-election this October, our Katherine Burgess reports.
- The ongoing federal government shutdown means 2,000 furloughed workers in Memphis are going without pay, our Ted Evanoff reports.
- Memphis rents are up, Desiree Stennett reports. We're still the cheapest in the state, though.
- A Shelby County Schools principle resigned four years ago after she was recorded asking teachers to help students teach on tests, only to be rehired as a compliance monitor for the district's after-school programs. Tracie Boyd, who is black, also allegedly called students the N-word. Well, she got sacked again last month.
- Our Jennifer Pignolet covered the funeral of Wei Chen, a local philanthropist and entrepreneur who died along with three other executives in a plane crash recently.
Under the direction of Morgan Jon Fox, another Memphian, Lisa Mac, had one of the standout music videos of 2018, "Change Your Mind."
Ryan Poe writes The 9:01 column, a morning news briefing that runs weekdays at 9:01 a.m. Reach him at email@example.com and on Twitter @ryanpoe.
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