Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fairgrounds Update UPDATE

Yesterday, I wrote that council members Barbara Swearengen Ware and Kemp Conrad had called the funding plan for the fairgrounds redevelopment project "pie in the sky" and "half-baked," respectively.

Conrad asked me to clarify his position on the fairgrounds proposal, saying he thought the plan half-baked because the process isn't working:

"I like the idea of private development paying for public improvements. I like the development team and their vision for the project, their track record and their diversity.

What is 'half baked' is a project totally predicated on $100 million in retail sales – yet we have just now receiving the retail study (which I recommended months ago) that

A) will confirm or not if this level of retail sales is even feasible – especially in this economy, and

B) where will these sales come from? I.e. Are we cannibalizing existing retail dollars that are being spent in Memphis? Or are they net new dollars that are currently being spent in Mississippi or Arkansas?

One has to look no further than the Winchester corridor – a carcass of once vibrant retail – now dead due in large part to retail spending migration to Wolfchase once it was built.

Also, if the majority of the $100 million are Memphis sales tax dollars now – the sales tax dollars these sales generate will then be diverted from the general fund (and we have a deficit as I’m sure you know) to be plowed into the public improvements."

The council is expected to hold a three-hour evening meeting in the near future to discuss the project.

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