Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fairgrounds Update

Mayor Willie Herenton is in front of the city council's economic development committee right now, talking about the Fairgrounds development project.

"I'm growing weary of getting all of these innuendos. The press has gotten involved. I keep hearing there are councilmembers ... concerned about development fees," said Herenton. "At the end of the day we're going to do this project or we're not.

"What are your issues?"

Under the proposal, the developer, Henry Turley (full disclosure: Turley is one of Contemporary Media's stockholders) is set to get $9.5 million in development fees.

Council member Shea Flinn asked that the mayor take the focus off the stadium and onto the Children's Museum of Memphis.

"It needs to stop being about a stadium. People in this city are worn out about stadiums and sports authorities," he said. "The guiding light has to be the children's museum. ... It already brings disparate parts of our community together right there."

Herenton said he heard what Flinn was saying but that the Liberty Bowl Stadium is "a horrendous challenge" because of the ADA requirements that haven't yet been met.

"We're not going to build a new one, but we've got to improve that stadium and we've got to do it in concert with the ADA requirements," Herenton said.

Under the current proposal for the fairgrounds redevelopment, $50 million in funding will be generated by the developer from retail sales.

Council members Barbara Swearengen Ware and Kemp Conrad both called that plan into question:

"I hate to use the terminology, but it sounds a little pie in the sky," said Ware.

"It's predicated on $100 million in retail sales, but the economy is not good right now. People are not spending money," Conrad said, calling the proposal "half-baked."

Herenton then said that based on what he was hearing from the council, the project was not ready to be moved forward and that he would instead focus on the stadium upgrades required by the department of justice.

The council plans to schedule a three-hour meeting to discuss the fairgrounds proposal in detail.


gatesofmemphis said...

what were the developer fees for Uptown? How do they compare?

marycash said...

Good question. I think, but I'll have to check it out, that Uptown was done differently.

As I recall, the funding for Uptown was HOPE VI money, so I don't think the developer had to cover the upfront costs. But that's just what I *think* and it might be wrong, so don't quote me.

*** said...

We have a feasibility study in the works and the results should be out by the end of the month. This is on the Zippin Pippin and Grand Carousel. But it is no longer a stretch to view the whole concentration of National Historic Register Landmark structures located at the Fairgrounds as a model for reinvestment under the new stimulus signed into law today, especially as an example of a green energy project. Retrofitting the historic structures with Memphis-based Sharp Solar technology is no longer outlandish, in fact is less "pie in the sky" than handing taxpayer funds to one private developer and corporate retail that competes with the surrounding small family businesses in Cooper Young.