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Johnny Ryall Mar 21, 2010 6:59 PM

Graceland Redevelopment Remains A Priority
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. plans to roll out his first budget proposal next week to the Memphis City Council. When he does, the mayor will draw on themes he has emphasized since taking office in October. One of those is the area around Graceland. Wharton has repeatedly said redeveloping it is one of his administration’s top economic development priorities. The statement affirms an ambitious plan to promote the Elvis brand worldwide by Robert Sillerman of CKX Inc., the media company that owns 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Since a 2005 unveiling of a $250 million blockbuster remake of the late entertainer’s Memphis home and its surroundings, Sillerman and CKX have suffered like other businesses in the worst national recession since the Great Depression. The recession has forced Sillerman to scale back plans outside Memphis and rewrite the Memphis plans with more cautious language. In CKX’s annual report, filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission this week, Sillerman and the company again talked of its goals for Memphis. “The company remains committed to the Graceland redevelopment and will continue to pursue opportunities on its own or with third parties,” the report reads. Before the last line in the annual report about CKX’s commitment to the Memphis part of its plan for the Elvis brand, CKX executives also reported, “The company has determined that there is a strong likelihood that the original preliminary design plans may require significant modifications or abandonment for a redesign due to current economic conditions and a lack of certainty as to exact scope, cost, financing plan and timing of this project.” Sillerman has met privately with city leaders about the project. He also appeared via a video recording at a 2008 Elvis fan club gathering in Memphis.

Earlier in 2009, CKX took a $900,000 write-off on the preliminary design work for the Graceland remake. The write-off followed the failure in March 2009 by FXRE, the real estate arm of CKX, to make an annual guaranteed minimum royalty payment to EPE. The issue was settled with a termination of the licensing agreement with EPE to develop one or more hotels at Graceland. The hotels could still be developed through a third party. CKX still operates the Heartbreak Hotel across the street from the mansion. In January, Wharton met with Sillerman in New York. Wharton said Sillerman told him CKX is more than committed to a revitalization of the Graceland area. “You won’t recognize Elvis Presley Boulevard in a few years,” Wharton said earlier this year. “You won’t recognize that campus.” Wharton also said Sillerman has groused about any doubts the SEC filings have created about his commitment to the Memphis development.

Johnny Ryall Mar 23, 2010 1:16 AM

Salvation Army at Memphis digs in to Kroc Center
Groundbreaking begins today for family facility
the Commercial Appeal | By Ryan Poe

The Salvation Army at Memphis starts work on its Kroc Center today, making the project one of a handful to survive the recent financial woes hurting nonprofit groups across the country. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is expected to be among those attending the groundbreaking ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m. in a tent set up near where the property borders the former Libertyland amusement park, said Major Mark Woodcock, area commander. The Salvation Army has contracted with Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC and is now waiting for the city to issue a building permit.

Funding for the center, the largest planned in the South, comes from the national Kroc Foundation, which gave the local group $62 million, half to build the center and half for an endowment to provide operating funds. The $25 million raised locally will bring that endowment to a total of $56 million. Woodcock said the Salvation Army chose the fairgrounds location because of its rich mixture of people from different races and economic backgrounds. "You couldn't pick a better location," he said. The family-oriented facility will have a gymnasium, indoor and outdoor water parks, a 300-seat theater, classrooms and laboratories, among other amenities. The 100,000-square-foot center will also bring job opportunities to people in the surrounding neighborhoods. The new building will be staffed by 40 full-time employees, and in the summer, by an additional 100 or so part-time employees.

When she died in 2003, Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, left more than $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army to build 31 such community centers. The Salvation Army's national office has since trimmed the number of proposed centers to 25 and has required local groups to raise a part of the cost, usually about $25 million. Because of the recession, projects have faltered across the country. Three of the 10 centers planned for the Salvation Army's 15-state Southern territory have already been canned because local groups couldn't raise the matching funds, spokesman Steve Carpenter said. "In Memphis, it's just amazing the number of generous people who, despite the economy, continue giving money," he said. The Salvation Army's local branch quietly began raising money four years ago, tapping corporations and big donors for $18 million. In 2008, the organization began asking for help from smaller donors, who contributed the additional $7 million. "A lot of people came together to make this happen, from a lot of walks in life," Woodcock said. "It was quite a blessing for us."

Woodcock said that the Memphis Kroc Center was originally set to get $50 million from the Kroc Foundation. It has received an additional $12 million for construction and endowments after other projects in Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina failed, loosening funds. Woodcock added that the local effort to raise money for the center has taken something of a toll on the group's overall budget. "We have put so much focus on the Kroc Center, and it has distracted us," he said. "Fundraising has suffered because of this." The Salvation Army in Memphis has a $300,000 shortfall to make up this year, partly because of the Kroc Center and partly because of the economy, Woodcock said. Even so, the Kroc Center will be worth it in the long run, he said. "Once we get beyond this, the impact we'll be having will be greater because of this," Woodcock said. "We're still serving the people we need to be serving."

Johnny Ryall Mar 23, 2010 1:17 AM

Pipe plant sign of Tunica growth
County brimming with pride after landing German company
the Commercial Appeal | By Ron Maxey

A German pipe manufacturer's decision to come to Tunica County is the latest feather in the cap of local leaders who say there's been a methodical effort to upgrade what was long thought of as one of the nation's poorest counties. Wilh. Schulz GMBH broke ground this month on a facility in northern Tunica County that is expected to create 500 manufacturing jobs within five years, 180 by the end of 2011.

The 450,000-square-foot rural site, with easy access to the Interstate 69 link to Interstate 55 in DeSoto County, competed with sites in such far-flung places as Shanghai; Rio de Janeiro; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Local and state leaders noted the international competition at the plant's groundbreaking, and said it speaks to Tunica's improving image that the area beat out the other candidates. "This is a worldwide company, and 300 locations were competing for this project," noted Gov. Haley Barbour, who met with Schulz officials in Singapore to broker the deal.

But local officials say it's just the latest example in the ongoing effort to improve an area known largely for its casinos. "People here have never been afraid to dream," said Tunica County Administrator Clifton Johnson. "People 20 years ago dreamed of businesses on the levee, and we see that today. "There were people who dreamed of an interstate highway from I-55 to Tunica County to get people here in a better fashion, and we see that today." Lyn Arnold, president of the Tunica County Chamber of Commerce, added that she thinks it speaks highly of local officials' efforts that the area was able to bring home 500 jobs in the current economic climate. More than dreaming, however, it might have been the behind-the-scenes negotiations by local and state leaders, starting with Barbour's overseas lobbying, that landed the plant. Barbour pushed for, and got, $15 million in bond improvements from the state to get the project started. Legislators approved the bonds on the opening day of their legislative session in January. Local energy providers also played a key role, with Schulz president and CEO Rainer Floeth jokingly noting that the company "couldn't find enough windmills to produce the power needed" in its home country.

The process used to produce the specialized pipes that will be produced at the factory carries heavy energy requirements, and Floeth singled out Entergy Mississippi Inc. and area power providers for their support. Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi, was on the stage with state, local and company leaders for the groundbreaking. Company officials hope to complete construction in Tunica by the end of this year. In the meantime, work is under way to assemble the leadership team for the plant. When completed, salaries at the plant are expected to average about $32,000 a year, with production workers earning about $15 an hour.

Johnny Ryall Mar 23, 2010 1:18 AM

ABRA Expands to Collierville
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News Rendering courtesy of ABRA Auto Body & Glass

ABRA Auto Body & Glass will expand its Memphis-area footprint this year by building a $2 million facility at 430 E. Winchester Blvd. in Collierville. The Minneapolis-based company plans to build a 13,100-square-foot auto glass replacement and repair facility shop on roughly 1.3 acres along the north side of Winchester Boulevard east of its intersection with South Byhalia Road. ABRA last week completed a land deal that gave the company the property it needed to establish a seventh shop in the Mid-South. The company has six Memphis-area locations, including three in the city, one in Cordova, one in Bartlett and one in Horn Lake.

Tim Adelmann, the company’s executive vice president of business development, said a Collierville location made a lot of sense for ABRA. “We’ve looked to expand in the Memphis market and we believe the Collierville area is an ideal community for us,” he said. “Many of our business partners, which are insurance companies, have expressed a need in that area, so we’re happy to work with the city of Collierville and look forward to serving the community.”

Full Article:

Johnny Ryall Mar 23, 2010 1:19 AM

Onyx Medical Files $3.5 Million Permit

Onyx Medical Corp. last week filed a $3.5 million permit with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to build a facility at 5121 N. Shelby Oaks Drive. Linkous Construction Co. Inc. filed the permit as general contractor for the building, which will serve as Onyx’s new headquarters.

The medical manufacturing company is moving operations from its current headquarters at 152 Collins St. in Midtown. Onyx earlier this month filed a $3.9 million construction loan through Trustmark National Bank. The loan was in conjunction with Onyx’s seven-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement, approved last fall by the city-county Industrial Development Board, which is listed on the loan as a joinder. The PILOT will save the company a little less than $850,000 in taxes.

Onyx is planning to make a $6.5 million capital investment as part of developing a new manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters and will create at least 17 new jobs. The family-owned Onyx makes a “complete line of wires, guide pins, half pins, drills and screws utilizing the latest in process technology and medical-grade specialty materials,” according to its Web site.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports – Eric Smith

Johnny Ryall Mar 23, 2010 1:45 AM

Belz Architecture is awarded design contract for Oynx Medical Project
Monday, March 15, 2010

Belz Architecture has completed the Design Documents for a new facility to be constructed at Shelby Oaks Business Center in Memphis, Tennessee. The project, Onyx Medical Corporation, is a 53,000 square foot manufacturing facility and will be located in Shelby Oaks North Business Center on the lake across the street from Pfizer. Belz Architecture did Schematic Design and Design Development Drawings last year for Onyx and was released at the end of January 2010 for Construction Documents. Construction will start at the end of March and the building is scheduled to be complete by March 2011.

Onyx Medical was established in 1990. They specialize in making a complete line of wires, guide pins, half pins, drills and screws utilizing the latest in process technology and medical-grade specialty materials. Oynx is a ISO-certified and an FDA-registered facility servicing nearly all the world’s largest orthopedic companies. A family-owned and family-operated business since the beginning, Onyx motivates its employees to exceed expectations and possess a deep-seated respect for each job.

Providing innovative and cutting edge designs, Belz Architecture is a leader in commercial architecture with diverse experience in Healthcare, Retail, Industrial, and Office related projects. It is this diversity of project types that allows us to provide our clients full architectural services carried out by experts whose knowledge and talents best match our clients' business strategies and objectives. With this team-based approach, every project benefits from individual expertise while leveraging the collective knowledge of the entire firm.

Johnny Ryall Mar 26, 2010 2:00 AM

Council Approves More Fairgrounds Changes
Memphis Daily News – Bill Dries

Just days after groundbreaking for the Salvation Army Kroc Center at the Mid-South Fairgrounds, there will be more changes to the landscape coming soon. The Memphis City Council Tuesday approved the demolition of the Arena Building at the fairgrounds as well as $606,000 in city funding to do design work on a “great lawn” project for the fairgrounds. The city funding comes from money left over from an upgrade of locker rooms at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Each of the two votes by the council was unanimous.

The Wharton administration came up with the new plan, which changes a general plan the council approved two weeks earlier. Under the revised plan, the Pipkin and Creative Arts buildings would not be demolished. The plan remains to create roughly 1,000 new parking spaces within the fairgrounds and have the area ready for the additional parking in time for the mid-September kickoff of the Southern Heritage Classic football game.

Johnny Ryall Mar 26, 2010 2:01 AM

Graceland-Area Improvements on Track
Memphis Daily News – Bill Dries

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said his administration hopes to complete all of the paperwork necessary to begin some public improvements along Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven by July 1. The improvements would be the beginning of an ambitious remake of Graceland by CKX, the Robert Sillerman-run company that owns 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Sillerman intends to keep the Presley mansion as it is. But he also plans to move the plaza across the street to adjoining property on the same side of the boulevard as Graceland. The land where the plaza is now would be developed with hotels and other attractions. “We’re committed to have every piece of paper run and done on July 1. Bob Sillerman has committed to that,” Wharton said. “We’ll be coming to you. You’ll see some changes in the budget, particularly in the CIP (Capital Improvement Projects). … We’ve got to have everything wrapped up and ready to go.”

Johnny Ryall Mar 26, 2010 2:01 AM

AEL Files Permit for Century Center Facility
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News Rendering courtesy of Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects

American Esoteric Laboratories has taken another step toward building a $14.3 million lab and headquarters for its Mid-South division. AEL, a regional provider of clinical laboratory services to physicians and hospitals, last week filed a $9.2 million permit to build a one-story, 70,000-square-foot facility at 1701 Century Center Parkway near the junction of Interstate 40 and Whitten Road. The company this week expects to close on a roughly 10-acre parcel of land from Boyle Investment Co., spending “plus or minus $2 million” on the property, said AEL president John Mazzei.

AEL, a division of Sonic Healthcare USA, has local roots that date back a half-century with the founding of Memphis Pathology Laboratory. That company was bought by AEL in 2007. The company now will begin a new chapter by consolidating its existing 33,000-square-foot building on Distribution Drive and 10,000-square-foot administrative office near Covington Pike, moving its entire Mid-South division into one space.

Full Article:

AEL Buys Land At Century Center

American Esoteric Laboratories has formally bought the land where it will build a $14.3 million lab and headquarters for the company’s Mid-South division. AEL, a regional provider of clinical laboratory services to physicians and hospitals, paid slightly less than $2 million for 10 acres of land at 1701 Century Center Parkway near the junction of Interstate 40 and Whitten Road. The sale closed March 18. Whitten Partnership Ltd., an entity related to Boyle Investment Co., was the seller. Memphis Pathology Laboratory, the company’s former name, was listed along with AEL as the buyer.

AEL two weeks ago filed a $9.2 million permit to build a one-story, 70,000-square-foot facility. The goal is to begin the six-month construction project soon and be in the building by Nov. 1, company president John Mazzei told The Daily News for a recent article. AEL, a division of Sonic Healthcare USA, will consolidate its existing 33,000-square-foot building on Distribution Drive and 10,000-square-foot administrative office near Covington Pike, moving its entire Mid-South division into one space. Mazzei said the Century Center locale is ideal for many reasons including proximity to the interstate. The company currently is 15 or 20 minutes off the highway, which increases delivery time. Rusty Foster of Memphis-based Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects is the architect of record for the project. Atlanta-based IDI, which has an office in Memphis, is the contractor. Jeb Fields of Commercial Advisors represented AEL in its site selection. For more about AEL’s plans, see the March 15 edition of The Daily News,

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports – Eric Smith

Johnny Ryall Mar 26, 2010 2:02 AM

World Overcomers Sells Mall to CDC

World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church Inc. has transferred ownership of the former Hickory Ridge Mall at 6075 Winchester Road to the Hickory Hill Community Redevelopment Corp. for $1.4 million. In the warranty deed, the buyer is listed as Hickory Ridge Mall CD Corp. Though the sale closed in February, it wasn’t recorded by the Shelby County Register of Deeds until this week. The church, which bought the mall in 2008 after a storm damaged the building, has spent the last year and a half transforming the property into a community center, replete with a restaurant, banquet hall, theater and other services for the neighborhood.

World Overcomers bought the Hickory Ridge Mall property – excluding the Macy’s and Dillard’s department stores – in the fall of 2008 for $1.4 million. It paid $1 million for the 212,282-square-foot Macy’s in March 2009. World Overcomers is retaining its congregational home at the former Central Church at 6655 Winchester Road, down the road from the mall. The church bought that property in 2001 for $10 million.

The Hickory Ridge Mall opened in 1981 and thrived for more than two decades before steadily declining as newer malls opened in other parts of town and tenants departed. A Feb. 5, 2008, storm delivered a knockout blow to the mall. Although the city of Memphis considered buying it and turning it into a satellite office for city services, the renovation proved too costly.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports – Eric Smith

Johnny Ryall Mar 26, 2010 2:03 AM

Plough Foundation awards UT Health Science Center $4.5 million
the Commercial Appeal | By Toby Sells

Construction is under way on the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's College of Pharmacy building at the UT-Baptist Research Park. The project has received $4.5 million from the Plough Foundation to build a new lab for producing and testing pharmaceuticals.

While the first four floors of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's College of Pharmacy building are expected to open Oct. 20, Dick Gourley has his sights set on the end of 2011. That's when UTHSC can expand its drug-making program after a $4.5 million grant from the Plough Foundation Wednesday established the Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems. The center will give students access to real-world drug manufacturing processes and give smaller pharmaceutical companies a venue to make right-sized batches of their experimental drugs. Gourley, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said the center will be used to manufacture small batches of injectable drugs for companies testing them in early-stage clinical trials. This, he said, will help attract students and businesses to Memphis. "The center will be able to do a lot of work that most folks can't, like working with orphan drugs and small batches," Gourley said. "It's hard to find a facility like that in the U.S. right now, especially one with the experience of our faculty." Orphan drugs are developed to treat illnesses that affect only a small number of people. UTHSC has had such a program for roughly 40 years, Gourley said, and it generates about $1.5 million per year in grants and contracts. The new lab is expected to bring in $4 million to $5 million per year, he said. For generations, (the center) will have a significant measurable impact on education, research, health care for our citizens and service to the community," said Scott McCormick, executive director of the Plough Foundation. "It will also serve as a catalyst for entrepreneurial endeavors in the local pharmaceutical industry."

The 5,800 square-foot facility will be built on the sixth floor of the building now under construction at the UT-Baptist Research Park in the Medical District. The new $65 million pharmacy building will consolidate UTHSC's pharmacy faculty, staff and students who are now housed in six different buildings on campus. Gourley is now looking for roughly $9.6 million in funds to "finish the building from top to bottom." He said he hopes to turn the basement into a manufacturing facility for capsule drugs. University of Tennessee Health Science Center (2009) -Research funding: $88 million, Student enrollment: 2,851, Pharmacy students: 725

Johnny Ryall Mar 28, 2010 1:53 AM

Residential development Downtown hits $600 million since 2000
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

Developers have invested $600 million in 97 residential projects in Downtown Memphis since 2000 and Downtown’s population has increased 12 percent in that time, according to the Center City Commission. Those and other statistics about the housing market Downtown were released today in the 2000-2010 Downtown Memphis Housing report at the CCC board’s meeting.

The population in the "Central Business Improvement District" was estimated at 23,000 in 2009, according to the report. That was up 4,000 people since 2000, or 21 percent, but the redevelopment of Uptown decreased lessened the density of low-income housing, offsetting the gains. The CBID is bounded by the Mississippi River and the Medical District to the west and east, respectively, and includes the South Main Historic Arts District to the south and Mud Island, Uptown and the Pinch District to the north. The Downtown core, which includes the Pinch District, Main Street and the Sports and Entertainment District, was the fastest growing part of the CBID with a 19 percent population increase since 2000.

Other highlights of the report include: • Households with incomes greater than $75,000 a year are the fastest-growing income demographic in the CBID. • The fastest-growing age demographic in the CBID is 55 to 64, which increased 66 percent from 2000 to 2009.
• The CCC estimates 80 percent of the Downtown population is single, although married couples showed a 19 percent increase from 2000 to 2009. • Downtown has 13,385 housing units, of which 57 percent are apartments, 18 percent single family homes, 16 percent condos and 10 percent public housing units. • Downtown currently has 2,100 condo units, most of which were developed from 2000 to 2009. The average appraised value for a condo in the 38103 ZIP code was $228,401.• There were 1,233 single-family homes built Downtown since 2000, with the average 38103 home appraisal being double the county average.• Downtown apartment properties averaged 90 percent occupancy during the past decade. • In 2009, the average household income in the CBID was $57,076.

Also, a Center City Commission committee continues to search for a president to replace the retiring Jeff Sanford. It should have its recommendations by April. Finally, the Center City Development Corp. approved a $21,793 facade grant for City Market to open at 66 S. Main; approved a $40,000 retail forgivable loan for Christine by Shelton Clothiers to open at 119 S. Main; and approved a $30,000 retail forgivable loan for Automatic Slims at 83 S. Second.

Johnny Ryall Mar 31, 2010 2:37 AM

NYK Logistics heads to Goodlett Farms35,000-square-foot office lease consolidates Memphis divisions
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

NYK Logistics Americas, Inc., is consolidating office operations into the wide open spaces of one floor in the Northeast Memphis submarket. The supply chain management company has signed a lease for 35,000 square feet at 1900 Charles Bryan Road in Goodlett Farms. It now occupies the building’s entire second floor, where it recently started leasing 30,000 square feet for its service division’s back office functions. NYK Logistics Americas, a wholly owned subsidiary of NYK Group, will now have about 250 employees at Goodlett Farms.

The second lease accommodates employees who are moving from the Southwind office campus in Southeast Memphis. These employees are involved in tracking shipments and customers for NYK Logistics. Wyatt Aiken, senior vice president for Commercial Advisors LLC, represented NYK Logistics while Commercial Alliance Management LLC senior leasing associate Bentley Pembroke represented the landlord, JP Realty Partners Ltd. “They are contiguous on one full floor and there are some efficiencies which come with that,” Pembroke says. “To my knowledge there isn’t another 65,000-square-foot floor plate available in a multi-tenant building in the market.” There could be some cost savings as well. NYK’s former office space at Southwind Building D rents for $21 a square foot while the Goodlett Farms building rents for $18.50 per square foot.

Regions Bank formerly occupied the entire 368,967-square-foot Goodlett Farms Business Campus, which includes the 1900 Charles Bryan building and the 7130 Goodlett Farms Parkway building. Regions still leases 200,000 square feet in both buildings for check processing, a call center and administrative mortgage functions. The latest NYK lease brings the entire complex to 79% occupancy. JP Realty purchased the 52-acre property in July 2008 as part of a 13-property portfolio from Regions Bank for $32 million. Grinder Taber & Grinder, Inc., filed an $800,000 building permit for commercial alterations at 1900 Charles Bryan Road. In addition to work on the second floor, the general contractor is updating common areas. The ground floor lobby is being renovated to better accommodate multiple tenants. “One of our main focuses has been working on a repeat basis with companies, so working with Commercial Alliance and NYK Logistics again fits into our strategy,” says Brett Grinder, vice president of the general contracting firm.

Grinder, Taber & Grinder has been working on renovations at the University Club and at the Racquet Club of Memphis. It’s also involved in the Visible School’s planned renovation of the former C&I Bank building at 200 Madison into a Downtown music college. “There are private organizations out there still taking advantage of the lower material and labor costs we have right now,” Grinder says. “We’ve been lucky to have a stable group of clients who give us business and while we’re nowhere near 100% capacity, we’ve been stable enough to avoid major layoffs.”

Hunter Fan Co., State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Stratas Foods LLC also lease space at Goodlett Farms. Pembroke says executives like the business campus feel of the development, which has a lake, walking trails and a gated entrance. The property also has a backup generator, on-site food services and a fitness center. “Basically, you get abundant amenities at a great value,” he says. Once NYK Logistics’ lease at Southwind expires in November, there will be 32,000 square feet available spread across three floors, including a contiguous 20,000-square-foot space on the second floor. Highwoods Properties, Inc., which owns, manages and leases seven buildings in Southwind, is currently courting larger customers to fill the NYK Logistics space.

Johnny Ryall Mar 31, 2010 2:37 AM

Midtown Big-Box Site Not Dead – Yet
ANDY MEEK and ERIC SMITH | The Daily News

Friday’s foreclosure notice announcing a sale on the courthouse steps of dozens of Midtown properties where a long-awaited mixed-use project has been planned for years is not an automatic death knell for the development. The ambitious plans for the site, which at one time attracted the attention of Target as a big-box anchor, could still move forward if the stars align. That’s true for the subject of any first-run foreclosure notice, where a forced auction can sometimes be avoided if the debtor brings his loan obligations current. No one close to the Midtown Memphis project, however, is commenting on the record yet about how WSG Memphis LLC’s default of a $14 million loan through Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. will affect the deal.

Lehman Brothers in September 2008 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, further complicating WSG’s tenuous financial situation. Lehman has filed foreclosure actions against WSG properties elsewhere, apparently a product of the bankrupt New York financial firm’s slow unwinding of its loan book. Commercial real estate brokers weren’t overly surprised to hear about the foreclosure because of the Lehman connection and because this has become a common fate for sites around the country due to difficult financing and an overall sluggish economy. “Development has come to a screeching halt unless it’s specifically tenant-driven,” said Danny Buring, principal at The Shopping Center Group. “They were trying to sell that as a mixed-used project, and I think mixed-used projects, unless there’s a specific tenant driving the deal, are the most cumbersome to get financed right now.” Some sources close to the situation spoke off the record about the deal, saying its potential dissolution is good news because WSG paid too much for the property and didn’t garner as much interest in the development as it initially thought.

Still, Buring and others said they believe a Target-anchored center in Midtown will succeed because of the market’s population density and lack of big-box offerings, but they aren’t sure that the Poplar-Cleveland locale is the best site. “There is enough demand and I think there’s probably enough desire from Target to eventually have a store in Midtown, but I don’t know where and – because of the economy – when,” Buring said. “They’ve cut their new store openings probably by 70 percent. “Everything’s getting pushed back three years in general. Until the financing comes back, there’s not going to be anything new built.” Big-box retail has had trouble getting built in Midtown because of opposition from various groups and a lack of available land, one of the best examples being the stalled Overton Square development.

Johnny Ryall Mar 31, 2010 2:38 AM

Company Pursuing $250M Graceland Revamp in Sale Talks
ANDY MEEK | The Daily News

The ownership of CKx Inc., the company that owns 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises and which is pursuing a $250 million revamp of Graceland and the surrounding area, may be getting all shook up. The Wall Street Journal reported today CKx is in talks to be bought out by One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. CKx confirmed the sale discussions, but not the potential buyer, with a brief statement. “In response to market rumors, CKx Inc. confirmed today that it is engaged in discussions regarding a possible transaction involving a possible sale of the company,” the statement reads. “CKx cautioned that there can be no assurance that it will enter into any agreement with respect to a transaction, or as to the timing, price or terms thereof, or that the price or terms in any such transaction will be as speculated. “CKx … does not expect to make any additional statements or provide any further information regarding the status of any discussions or any possible transaction unless a definitive agreement is entered into or adopted.”

CKx owns popular television brands like “American Idol” and “So you think you can dance.” It’s unclear what effect a sale would have on CKx’s long-simmering plans to revamp the Graceland area. In early 2009, CKx took a $900,000 write-off on the preliminary design work for the effort. In CKx’s 2009 annual report released earlier this month, the company reaffirmed its goals for Memphis. “The company remains committed to the Graceland redevelopment and will continue to pursue opportunities on its own or with third parties,” the report reads. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. met with CKx chief executive Robert Sillerman earlier this year during a trip Wharton took to New York. “Bob authorized us to quote him as saying, ‘He’s not committed to doing Graceland – he’s going to do Graceland,’” Wharton said.

Johnny Ryall Mar 31, 2010 2:39 AM

Onyx manufactures fixed location
Move to Shelby Oaks positions business for growth
Memphis Business Journal - by Michael Sheffield Photo Credit : COURTESY BELZ ARCHITECTURE

Onyx Medical Corp. will soon begin construction on a $4.5 million, 53,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Shelby Oaks industrial park. Onyx, a manufacturer of screws, drill bits, pins and wires for the orthopedic device industry, received a seven-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes last fall from the Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board as an incentive to expand. The abatement is expected to save the company an estimated $850,000 in taxes. The investment is the combined cost of land acquisition, construction and new equipment it will acquire for the new facility. The company’s current 30,000-square-foot facility is located on Collins, north of Poplar in the Binghampton area. The new facility in East Memphis will be built on a 4.5-acre site and have space for expansion of up to 75,000 square feet. Construction will begin on the project in the next few weeks. It is expected to be completed sometime in the first quarter of 2011.

Jodie Gilmore, vice president of strategic business development for Onyx, says the decision to build a new building came after researching cost estimates of retrofitting and moving into an existing building. Once construction is completed, Onyx is expected to add 17 people to its 70-person work force. The new employees will be a combination of machinists and skilled medical device professionals. Gilmore expects the increase in employees to help serve existing customers interested in consolidating more of their business with Onyx. The company supplies its products to device companies all over the U.S., as well as local companies such as Smith & Nephew PLC, Wright Medical Group, Inc., and Medtronic. Gilmore says the company is close to breaking the $10 million mark in revenue. “If we tell them we want to be a strategic partner,” she says, “we have to show we have the ability and capacity.” Onyx received financing for the project through Trustmark National Bank. The building is being designed by Belz Architecture and Construction and will be built by Linkous Construction Co., Inc.

Tim Garrett, director of architecture for Belz, says the design will allow the company to arrange its machinery more efficiently for manufacturing. Onyx has operated on Collins since it was acquired by Laraine and Roger Gilmore in 1990. Patrick Gilmore, vice president of manufacturing and engineering for Onyx, says the company will also upgrade its technology, from the electro-polishing equipment it uses to its clean room areas. “We’re adding more power and a cleaner looking manufacturing environment,” Patrick Gilmore says. “We want the new building to represent Onyx without taking the budget over the top.”

Dick Tarr, president and executive director of InMotion Orthopaedic Research Center, says companies like Onyx help provide a manufacturing partner for the device companies in the city. “Memphis is really beginning to build a critical mass of orthopedic companies,” Tarr says. “Onyx is a big part of that on the production side.” The company is moving forward cautiously, says president Laraine Gilmore. The orthopedic industry has remained relatively stable, but Onyx wants to be prepared for any opportunities for growth. “There was hesitation, but there was a need for it,” she says. “In order to grow, we had to move in this direction and take this chance. It’ll be best for our employees and the company.”

Johnny Ryall Apr 5, 2010 1:50 AM

Performa throwing party to celebrate Beale Street rejuvenation efforts
the Commercial Appeal | By Wayne Risher

Beale Street will throw a party in three weeks to welcome new and relocated tenants. The entertainment district also will launch a speaker's series beginning Wednesday at a new eatery, Lil Anthony's Cafe. The events come as Beale Street's management firm, Performa Entertainment Real Estate, attempts to rejuvenate the easternmost block of the district between Handy Park and Fourth Street.

Performa announced target reopening dates of Ground Zero Blues Club April 21 at 310 Beale and Red Rooster April 14 at 340 Beale. Both are moving off a side street, Lt. Lee. Lil Anthony's, 341 Beale, will host the first speaker, librarian and author Wayne Dowdy, during a noontime Dutch treat luncheon. Dowdy will discuss his new book "Hidden History of Memphis." At noon April 14 musician Sid Selvidge will talk about how he got into blues music. The April 22 party, which starts at 6 p.m., includes historian Jimmy Ogle making a presentation on the Brass Note Walk of Fame and Elaine Turner of Heritage Tours providing information about the Handy House. The Big Jerry Blues Band will play.

Wristbands will be sold for $5, providing admission to clubs and access to food and beverage specials. Proceeds will be split among nonprofit groups Mpact Memphis, Volunteer Mid-South and KnowledgeQuest. "It will be a street party celebrating a milestone accomplishment for Beale Street," said Performa chairman and CEO John Elkington. "The evening will be a celebration of entrepreneurism, music, culture and civic pride, just like our original intent when we set out to redevelop Beale Street."

Work has been under way since early March on converting the shuttered Pat O'Brien's into the new home of Ground Zero and the former Double Deuce club into the Red Rooster. Beale Street crews also improved access to the W.C. Handy House at Beale and Fourth by trimming overgrown shrubs and installing a new gate and sidewalk leading from Beale to the historic residence.

Johnny Ryall Apr 5, 2010 1:51 AM

Curb appeal: Landscaping gussies up Memphis airport ahead of 2011 conference
the Commercial Appeal | By Wayne Risher Photo by Dave Darnell

The city launched a beautification project Tuesday to spruce up Memphis International Airport's front doorstep. The first phase includes planting 268 trees and 580 day lilies and installing irrigation along Winchester near Cargo Road, just outside the airport's main entrance. Future phases call for hundreds of trees along Plough Boulevard from Winchester to Interstate 240 and upgrading the M-shaped raised planter that welcomes airport visitors to Memphis.

A Greater Memphis Chamber Aerotropolis committee and the Memphis Airport Area Development Corp. steered the project and handed it off to city government, which appropriated $1.6 million for all three phases. Omega General Contractors Inc., are planting bald cypress, October Glory red maples and seedless honey locusts along Winchester, said landscape architect Ritchie Smith, whose firm designed the project. A handful of yoshino cherry trees will be planted to complement an existing stand of the trees. The phase 1 contract is about $100,000. Smith said trees were carefully selected because of aviation safety issues associated with migratory birds. Airport Authority officials and federal wildlife biologists wanted trees that wouldn't attract flocks of birds. A design hasn't been decided for the successor to the big M planter. Smith said it's possible to create a more inviting welcome feature using softer, more natural materials.

Airport boosters hope the improvements will be done in time for the Airport Cities World Conference in Memphis next April. "We're very pleased the city saw fit to embark on this beautification project on Plough Boulevard," said Airport Authority board chairman Arnold Perl. "In the past it was something of an eyesore." Authority president and CEO Larry Cox said airport workers will remove a row of Bradford pear trees that runs along the edge of the airfield and Signature Flight north of Winchester. The trees have overgrown a fence and power lines and provide an ill-placed roosting site for birds, Cox said. The authority will hire the city's contractor to plant new trees. In conjunction with the beautification, the airport will install electronic signs on entrance and exit roads and signs marking airfield boundaries.

Johnny Ryall Apr 5, 2010 1:51 AM

Work to begin on pedestrian/cycling bridge over Wolf River
the Commercial Appeal | By Tom Charlier Rendering courtesy of field operations.

Peaceful and scenic though it may be, the Wolf River poses a major barrier to recreational opportunities in Memphis. But not for much longer. In its third ground-breaking in two months, the group operating Shelby Farms Park began work Wednesday on a 200-foot-long pedestrian and cycling bridge over the river that will connect trail systems in the park with the city's planned Wolf River Greenway. Located about a mile upstream from the Walnut Grove Road bridge, near where Shady Grove Road meets Humphreys Boulevard, the steel-truss span will form part of a link that eventually will connect the Shelby Farms Greenline, a rails-to-trails project now under construction between Shelby Farms and Midtown, with the Greenway. Completion is set for this fall.

"This bridge really is a bridge to the future for Shelby Farms Park," said Barbara Hyde, president of the Hyde Family Foundations, which is funding many of the park improvements, and chairwoman of the committee overseeing the park's master plan. The bridge, costing $1.85 million, is part of $75 million of privately funded improvements either under construction or being developed at the 4,500-acre park between East Memphis and Cordova. Other projects include an innovative playground, the enlargement of Patriot Lake and the planting of 1 million trees. Former AutoZone president Peter Formanek, a "major funder" for the bridge project, said Shelby Farms symbolizes "one area where Shelby County can really be the leader" nationally.

The bridge design features a custom wooden "liner" that provides a 12-foot-wide deck and shapes the views that walkers, cyclists and others will get as they cross the Wolf. Toward the north, or park side of the bridge, the plank siding of the deck gradually falls away to convey greater views and a sensation of crossing the river. "The design is actually a strategic and a poetic one," said Richard Kennedy, senior associate with field operations, the New York landscape architecture and urban design firm that prepared the Shelby Farms master plan and is designing the projects. "It's really about dramatizing that experience of entering into the park." The bridge will connect not only with paved trails but the primitive trails through the forest in the Lucius E. Burch Jr. State Natural Area. The bridge truss is being assembled off-site. The construction will not result in a net loss of any primitive trails, said Laura Adams, deputy director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, which operates the park under an agreement with the county.

Johnny Ryall Apr 5, 2010 1:52 AM

Mississippi governor says Senatobia to get solar panel manufacturing facility, 500 jobs
the Commercial Appeal | By Staff

SENATOBIA, Miss. -- For the second time in three weeks, northwest Mississippi reeled in a 500-job, high-tech manufacturing facility with the announcement Friday that a solar technology company will build a plant in Senatobia. Gov. Haley Barbour and Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., backed by Senatobia and Tate County officials, announced at Northwest Mississippi Community College that Twin Creeks Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based operation with manufacturing sites in Boston and San Jose, Calif., had chosen Senatobia from among 25 sites to build solar panels.

Senatobia, about 30 miles south of Memphis, joins another site in the region jumping aboard the solar technology bandwagon. Tennessee officials have approved buying 200 acres in Haywood County, about 40 miles northeast of Memphis, where they plan to erect a "solar farm" with an array of solar panels. Memphis already is home to one of the nation's largest solar manufacturers in the Sharp Electronics Corp. plant on Mendenhall. The facility produces enough solar panels to generate 140 megawatts of power and in the past year increased its workforce from 300 to 480.

The Senatobia plans call for a 250,000-square-foot, $175 million production facility that will employ 512 workers in two phases over the next five years. That's good news in Tate County, where the most recent unemployment rate was 13.1 percent in February. The facility will be located in Senatobia's industrial park, and most of the jobs created should go to area workers, Mayor Alan Callicott said.

Barbour, who was in Tunica County on March 10 to announce that German pipe manufacturer Wilh. Schulz GMBH would open a 500-job plant there, sounded a similar tone Friday in trumpeting the area's growing reputation as an international competitor for high-tech jobs. "After looking at more than 25 sites, including sites in Asia, they've decided the best place in the world to manufacture solar panels is Senatobia, Miss.," Barbour said. "This facility will be the first renewable solar technology production plant in the state."

University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones touted the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing on his school's nearby Oxford campus and the symbiotic relationship he hopes will develop between that program and Twin Creeks as the state moves away from furniture manufacturing jobs to high-tech, high-paying endeavors. This project will help improve energy consumption down the road for those of us in this country ... and your coming will help move this state forward," Jones said.

A timetable wasn't outlined, but Twin Creeks CEO Siva Sivaram said he hopes to break ground "rapidly" on a plant that was given a boost by loan assistance totaling $50 million through the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority. The state and the city of Senatobia also will provide $4 million for infrastructure improvements at the plant site.

The company, which was founded in 2008 and holds a portfolio of more than 50 patents, uses what it says is a unique manufacturing process to produce photovoltaic solar panels that it hopes will become a growing alternative energy source. By the numbers; 512: Projected number of employees at the new solar plant. $175 million: Cost of the new plant. 250,000: Size of the facility in square feet. 50: Number of patents held by Twin Creeks Technologies

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