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Austinlee Feb 4, 2010 2:05 AM

Johnny Ryall: Thanks for your extensive postings. From the looks of it there is alot of activity going on in the Memphis metro.

I did not know that Memphis was a dual core city. Lots of good info.

Johnny Ryall Feb 5, 2010 7:23 PM

The New York Times | Next Stop
Roll Over, Elvis. Meet Indie Memphis. | By MELENA RYZIK

This is indie Memphis, a long way from the tourist crush of Beale Street and Graceland, in spirit if not in actual distance. Midtown, just a short drive from a downtown famous for its blues, jazz and barbecue hounds, is its hipster epicenter, a diverse area that is now home to posh cocktail bars as well as divey rock clubs and longstanding juke joints. It parties late, very late, and stays friendly through the night...

Full Article:

Where Memphis Parties

BnaBreaker Feb 6, 2010 6:13 AM

Johnny thanks so much for all your Memphis updates. I haven't responded until now, but I do look at this thread for updates every few days or so. You've done a great job compiling all this info.

Can you tell me where I-555 is going? I haven't heard of that.

Johnny Ryall Feb 6, 2010 5:39 PM


Originally Posted by BnaBreaker (Post 4684924)
Can you tell me where I-555 is going?

Thanks. Hwy 63 between Crittenden County, AR (I-55 junction) to the Jonesboro, AR area (with future plans to extend into southern Missouri) will be commissioned I-555. It is already interstate standards. Supposedly, all that's left to complete is a farm equipment bridge, so tractors don't use the right/emergency lanes to cross water at one point inbetween. This will be a very important route for the Memphis region as it will tie in an area that is currently designated as its own CSA with an approximate population of over 160,000. The Jonesboro CSA's southeastern border (Poinsett County) is adjacent to Crittenden County which is designated metro-Memphis. Also, Crittenden County is one of the 3 tri-state counties that contains the greater Memphis urban core. The other 2 being Shelby County, TN & Desoto County, MS. This is one example in part of why the Memphis MSA population is very underrated according to Census criteria.

cabasse Feb 6, 2010 6:12 PM

i just randomly came upon this thread, but i gotta say that round hilton popping up out of a lake is sweet! i can't think of any other buildings that are similar in that regard.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 8:47 PM

Midtown Memphis

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 8:48 PM

1884 Lounge @ Minglewood Plaza now open in Midtown Memphis

350-person capacity venue that includes a cocktail bar, stage & dancefloor complete with pro lighting & sound system. The 1884 Lounge is part of the greater Minglewood Plaza and is adjacent to the larger 1,500-person venue, Minglewood Hall.

Previously: Minglewood Plaza, $6,000,000 (2 of 3 phases completed)

80,000 sq. ft will include three retail stores and a restaurant - plus a large entrance, atrium and courtyard - all of which will comprise Minglewood Plaza. In addition to the retail/restaurant components, the property houses Minglewood Concert Hall, a music venue that can hold 1,500 people. The DeHart Group, operating as Mad Will Properties LLC, bought the building in February 2007 for $1.7 million and promptly converted the second floor into corporate offices. The DeHart Group is a family-owned business that operates a host of companies ranging from third-party logistics and finance to human resources and technology.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 8:52 PM

Playhouse on the Square Readies for Building’s Debut
JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Daily News
MUSICAL FEATURES: The orchestra pit is one of many amenities at the new $13 million Playhouse on the Square. -- PHOTO BY JONATHAN DEVIN

In anticipation of its grand opening production of “Pippin” Jan. 29, the new three-story Playhouse on the Square near Overton Square held its first preview event this week. The new theater is the culmination of five years of fundraising and more than a year of construction. “We wanted to give the community an opportunity to come in and see what we are doing,” said Whitney Jo, POTS’ managing director. “Originally we thought (the building) would be a bit further along, but it’s going to get there in time for the opening of ‘Pippin.’ The stage and some of the public areas were still under construction when about 100 artists, all of whom had previously donated art to POTS’ annual art auction, became the first guests Wednesday. Jo said POTS had reached its fundraising goal of $13 million for the project, $8.5 million of which covers construction. The rest covers architect fees and the purchase of the property at the corner of Union Avenue and Cooper Street. POTS will continue to raise another $3 million to fund an endowment to cover staff increases and other ancillary expenses. David Burns of the John Morris Agency in Chicago designed the theater. The same agency built Chicago’s noted Steppenwolf Theater after which the new POTS was designed. Jo said she and Jackie Nichols, POTS’ executive director, were pleased the construction funds were raised in five years, noting that construction would not have begun until the funds were secured. Some of the funds are long-term pledges, which will be paid off over the next four years. “We started building this theater in a recession,” Jo said. “We did have our moments when we plateaued in fundraising. We got stuck at $3 million forever, then we got stuck at $6 million forever. “But Jackie has never started something that didn’t happen. The community got with us too and said if Jackie wants it to happen, it’s going to happen.”

The city of Memphis handled demolition of the vacant Kate’s Antique Mall, which formerly occupied the site and had become a home for vagrants. The city also donated to POTS a pie-shaped parcel of land at the corner that extended onto the property. The theater was built into the concrete footing of the former antique mall in order to sidestep codes that mandated new construction to be 25 feet or more away from the curb. The new theater walls reach the sidewalk. POTS also asked for and received a height variance in order to build a tower to house the theater’s fly space, which allows wall-size pieces of scenery to be lifted over the stage. In the end, the variance wasn’t needed as plans for the tower were downsized to save money. said they also reduced plans for an “extravagantly green” park-like rooftop terrace complete with grassy lawns, which would have added about $100,000 to the cost. Instead, the terrace features potted plants and a storm water recovery system.

The house includes 347 seats on two levels, 100 of which are in the balcony. The balcony offers six boxes with two seats each. The former POTS had 258 seats. The stage features trap doors in the floor with a basement underneath and an orchestra pit that is wheelchair accessible by elevator. “Our orchestra no longer has to play in a hallway,” Jo said. “When the building’s foundation was poured we all went down there and cried because we could see our musicians having light and space.” The building also offers expanded gallery and party space.

The five-story building immediately behind the new POTS on Union, which was also purchased by the theater, had no major structural changes, but now serves as administrative offices, rehearsal space, storage space, costume shop, dressing rooms, a green room and will eventually have a first floor café. POTS staff moved into their new offices in December. In February, the other buildings in POTS’ campus will shift as well. Circuit Playhouse, POTS’ non-residential community theater, will move from 1705 Poplar Ave. at Evergreen Street to the existing POTS theater at 51 S. Cooper St. The old Circuit Playhouse will be renamed the Evergreen Theatre and will be leased to TheatreWorks for $1 per year. TheatreWorks at 2085 Monroe Ave. will operate in its current building and in the Evergreen Theatre. POTS’ Varnell Education Building at 1711 Poplar will continue to be the site of its youth acting programs.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:00 PM

MCA's new residence hall rises in Midtown
the Commercial Appeal | By Juanita Cousins

The Memphis College of Art is enlarging its campus footprint with a $3.3 million student residence hall and three residential properties. An artist rendering of Memphis College of Art's Metz Hall and the new dormitory space.
at 139 N. Barksdale in Midtown. The building will be a mirror image of the Metz Hall residence structure, which was built in 2004. MCA President Jeffrey Nesin said the student residences help "build community among students."

The 24,000-square-foot facility will house 47 students on three floors of apartment-like suites, said the project's lead architect Rebecca Conrad, a partner at Askew Nixon Ferguson. Each suite will have four bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen and laundry amenities. The fourth floor will have a studio, activity space and warming kitchen, which the college can use for special functions. The dorm is scheduled for completion in fall 2010. "It's just helping the campus further its identity on making it more visible in this community," Conrad said.

Last summer, Memphis College of Art spent $250,000 on three Midtown properties: two residential buildings on Tucker Street that now house 10 students, and a Rembert Street property that will eventually provide additional residential housing. Nesin said the independent art and design college set in Overton Park has thrived despite a slumping economy. Its Design for the Future Capital Campaign raised $8 million. The money will be used to increase scholarships, create a technology-driven curriculum, increase the school's endowment and build the Barksdale Street dorm. When Nesin became president in 1991, the campus had no student residential housing. Since then the college has acquired some 20 properties south of Poplar Avenue and built housing for more than 160 students.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:05 PM

Levitt Shell @ Overton Park

It was built for less than $12,000 in the 1930s by the city of Memphis and the Works Progress Administration, but to relaunch the Levitt Shell at Overton Park – which the city closed a few years ago after years of inactivity and disrepair – it took a $1.3 million renovation plus the addition of new equipment, volunteers, staff, an office space and much more. It is the music venue where a young Elvis Presley played his first show in 1954.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:06 PM

Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal School

42,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility, $8,000,000-$12,000,000
The school also plans a 2,600-square-foot expansion and renovation of an existing building on campus.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:08 PM

Carrier Hall @ Central Gardens (U/Renovation)

Size: 9,000-square-foot main house, 2,500-square-foot guest house/bath house, and tea house with more than 400 square feet.
Imposing grand estate built in the 1920's on 1.3 acres in the heart of Midtown. Grand rooms & halls, interior limestone arches & remarkable floors place this home in a league of its own. Features: Wine cellar, large pool (14 ft deep), eight fireplaces and restored outdoor courtyard fountain. Also, it listed on National Register of Historic Places. Memphis boasts the sixth-highest number of historic properties listed on the National Register - about 11,500 buildings.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:10 PM

Midtown Memphis, (Design/Planning) $180,000,000

Mixed-use project that will include residential, retail, office, medical office, and restaurant space on a 26-acre site.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:16 PM

The MEMPHIS ZOO is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species. This includes Giant Pandas, being 1 of only 4 zoos in the nation to have them. Created in April 1906, the zoo has been a major tenant of Overton Park for more than 100 years. In 2008, the Memphis Zoo was ranked "#1 Zoo in the U.S." by Since the early 1990s, the Memphis Zoo has invested over $80 million for renovation and expansion, making it one of the finest zoological parks in the nation.

Future Exhibits:
Teton Trek- Four acre exhibit featuring grizzlies, timber wolves, elk and trumpeter swans. Scheduled to open in fall of 2009.
Zambezi River Hippo Camp- A new home for the Zoo's hippos. Also featuring Nile crocs, okapi and flamingos.
Chickasaw Bluffs- Concept exhibit that weaves a boardwalk trail through 17 acres of forest land.

Johnny Ryall Feb 7, 2010 9:20 PM

The city of Memphis is moving forward with a $175 million plan to transform the Mid-South Fairgrounds into a multipurpose public space, complete with athletic facilities, shopping, parks and housing.

Johnny Ryall Feb 8, 2010 7:45 PM

Funds in place for Salvation Army's new Kroc Center
Construction could begin in January for facility near fairgrounds
By Amos Maki

The Salvation Army announced Tuesday that it has raised the $25 million in private funds it needed to trigger a $60million match from the Kroc Foundation for a new community and recreation complex in Midtown. The money will finance both the construction of the community center near the Mid-South Fairgrounds and a permanent endowment for its operation. “The hope really is that it brings people together from the different communities around Memphis,” said Stephen Carpenter, director of operations for the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. “... It’s really about building relationships and having a place where people can learn and be active.”

Memphis was selected in 2005 as one of 25 U.S. cities to receive a matching gift from the Ray and Joan Kroc Trust to build a Kroc Center. The 15-acre facility site, just south of Central on East Parkway, was purchased for $1.62 million from the city of Memphis in 2007. Demolition work to remove asphalt and other infrastructure on the site has already begun. The 100,000-square-foot facility will include arts, education, recreation and worship components, with soccer fields, basketball courts, a fitness center, an aquatic center and a 300-seat space for performing arts and chapel services. The Salvation Army hopes to break ground on the center in January or February, and construction is expected to take 15 months, Carpenter said.

“I’m really excited about them breaking ground so people can really see how awesome it is,” said Sutton Mora-Hayes, executive director of the Cooper Young Development Corp., based in the neighborhood just west of the Kroc Center site. In addition to providing the city with a recreational and gathering space, the Kroc Center will create full-time and part-time jobs that organizers say will put $2million to $3 million into the Memphis economy annually. The Kroc Center will be part of the city’s overall fairgrounds redevelopment plan to create a $175 million multipurpose space, with athletic facilities, shopping, parks and housing. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” Robert Lipscomb, city director of Housing and Community Development, said Tuesday when he learned the Salvation Army’s $25 million goal had been reached. “It’s a tribute to their hard work and the whole project.”

Last year, city officials chose a plan backed by real estate developer Henry Turley to develop the area into a center for retail, entertainment and other purposes. But disagreements over fees have slowed that project, leading Lipscomb to consider alternatives. Currently, the city is meeting with other groups to formulate a vision for the site. “We’re trying to meet with every neighborhood group out there,” said Lipscomb. “Every time we meet with a group, we get a new idea.”

Johnny Ryall Feb 8, 2010 7:54 PM

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium $30 million Upgrade & Renovations

Phase 1- $5 million (Completed): Gate 4 Reconstruction, Expanded Home Locker Rooms, Relocation of Visitor Locker Rooms, Media/ Conference Space, Female Restroom Expansion, American Disability Act Compliance. Additional Renovation Phases will continue for the next 4 to 5 years. Capacity: 63,000 seats, Built in 1965 (previous $20 million renovation in 1987).

Officials cut the ribbon earlier last year on what they hope will be a bright new future for Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, thanks to a number of upgrades. The locker room renovation cost over 1.8 million dollars, while the gate 4 project cost over 3 million dollars. One of the first things visitors will notice as they walk into the stadium are new ramps designed to make the building more accessible to the disabled. The disabled will also find that new seating changes will make it easier to see activities on the field. All around the stadium, special care has been taken to make bathrooms more accessible to wheelchairs and other devices. Meanwhile, in another part of the stadium, there are large meeting rooms that can be used for sports-related interviews or rented out for profit. Fans will also find that the stadium now has listening devices to help folks who need them hear games. And when you visit the Liberty Bowl, be sure to check out the new concession stands and locker rooms. Officials said plans have already been made to do more renovations in the future.

Included in the 1987 stadium renovation were the addition of the sky-suites located on the east side of the stadium, approximately 12,000 seats in the stands and a stadium club to accommodate donors. In addition, several areas of the stadium were vastly improved, including the lighting system, playing surface, handicap seating area, concession stands and restroom facilities. The largest crowd to witness a Memphis home football game at the Liberty Bowl was the record-setting 65,885 who attended the Tigers’ stunning upset of No. 6 ranked Tennessee in 1996. In December of 1983, city of Memphis officials named the playing surface Rex Dockery Field in honor of the late Tiger coach who was killed in a plane crash.

Johnny Ryall Feb 11, 2010 2:22 AM

Sold! Green Bay,WI wants to buy the Zippin Pippin rollercoaster
the Commercial Appeal | By Amos Maki

Green Bay, Wisc., mayor Jim Schmitt (right) talks with Green Bay's director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Bill Landvatter today at Libertyland about how the Zippin Pippin roller coaster might fit into Green Bay's Bay Beach Amusement Park.

The mayor of Green Bay, Wis., says his city will buy the Zippin Pippin for its Beach Bay Amusement Park. Mayor Jim Schmitt, in Memphis today to see the vintage wooden roller coaster at its Libertyland site, did not disclose a purchase price, but said that most of the money Green Bay pays would go to relocation of the roller coaster.

"We're impressed," Schmitt said after his visit to the Zippin Pippin about 10:30 a.m. "We've talked to our engineers and this can happen." Also present for the on-site visit were Steve Mulroy, head of Save Libertyland Inc., and Green Bay Parks director Bill Landvatter. "I'm going to recommend that we work diligently to acquire the Zippin Pippin to relocate it to Green Bay," Schmitt said.

Johnny Ryall Feb 11, 2010 2:24 AM

It’s ‘full steam ahead’ for construction of $21 million Kroc Center project
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

Artist's rendering of Kroc Center of Memphis exterior Photo Credit : COURTESY TRO JUNG | BRANNEN

Indoor aquatic center will be part of recreational facilities at Kroc Center. Photo Credit : COURTESY TRO JUNG | BRANNEN

Lobby area Photo Credit : COURTESY TRO JUNG | BRANNEN

The Salvation Army Memphis has selected Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC to build the $21 million, 100,000-square-foot Kroc Center of Memphis at the Mid-South Fairgrounds, a solid step toward a late February groundbreaking and the end of a challenging pre-development process. “It’s been great after all the neighborhood meetings and focus groups, to be able to meet again with people and show them how we’re doing what they want,” says Stephen Carpenter, director of operations for the Kroc Center. Before starting work with the Kroc Center in 2006, Carpenter had helped co-found New Hope Christian Academy and served as headmaster for 10 years. The site, which covers 15 acres fronting East Parkway and runs from Fairview Middle School to the Fairgrounds entrance, has been cleared of asphalt. Construction is expected to take 16 months with a target completion date of July 2011. “We’re just full steam ahead,” Carpenter says.

The overarching project includes the building and an endowment. In 2005, Memphis was selected as one of 25 cities to receive a matching gift from the Ray & Joan Kroc Trust. The trust will donate $60 million to the project. It initially was going to donate $50 million after $25 million in private funds were raised, but kicked in an extra $10 million due to the site location and demographics. The Kroc Foundation wanted these centers put in places surrounded by various economic and racial groups. There are currently 25 Kroc Centers in various stages across the country, from fundraising to breaking ground. A small center in Atlanta opened last year and two centers in Greenville, S.C. and Augusta, Ga., are at about the same stage as the Memphis one. The Memphis center will be within walking distance to residents in Orange Mound, Vollentine-Evergreen, Cooper-Young, Beltline and Chickasaw Gardens. “For us, you can’t get any better than the Fairgrounds,” Carpenter says.

The project’s land and building costs will total $30 million, leaving $55 million in the endowment for programming and events. Carpenter expects the endowment to have a long life since the nonprofit Salvation Army is fiscally conservative. TRO Jung | Brannen and Fleming/Associates/Architects PC partnered on designing the Kroc Center. TRO was responsible for most of the exterior design and site work; Fleming handled most of the interior design. Ritchie Smith Architects is handling landscape architecture, while Flintco, Inc., was involved in some pre-construction work.

Brett Ragsdale, senior associate with TRO Jung | Brannen, says one design challenge came from the building site facing the large educational buildings of Christian Brothers University to the north and smaller residential structures to the west. “We wanted to be contextual and to do that, we had some large masses which relate to the schools, but we tried to break it down to the scale of the houses across the street, using red brick to relate to residential across the street,” he says. Also, figuring out how to configure the building was challenging, since the Fairgrounds’ future is in a state of flux, especially land to the south and east of the Kroc Center. Initially, the Salvation Army thought it was going to receive 25 acres from local government, but that was scaled back to 15 acres when it was determined it would have to purchase the land from the government. “That challenged us because we couldn’t really cut a lot of programs or space, so we had to try and fit everything on a 15-acre site,” Ragsdale says. “We also didn’t know what was going on around us.” The Kroc Center will be built for four main components: arts, education, recreation and worship. “That’s true for every Kroc Center under way across the country,” Carpenter says. “But how those are defined depends on the individual community.” It will have a 300-seat auditorium that can function as a chapel or theater.

Johnny Ryall Feb 11, 2010 2:25 AM

Ground broken on first section of Wolf River Greenway
the Commercial Appeal | By Don Wade

On a chilly morning better suited to riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill inside a health club, three cycling friends with homes in Downtown, Bartlett and Germantown stood in the cold to watch the symbolic ground-breaking of the Wolf River Greenway. “This is wonderful,” Joyce Hudak, who lives Downtown, said this morning moments before Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, City Councilman Bill Boyd and others used gold-painted shovels to turn dirt under the bridge near the intersection of Walnut Grove Road and Humphreys Boulevard. “I hope they see it through to completion." Her friends, Brenda Ross of Bartlett and Cathy Distretti of Germantown, agreed. Together, the three middle-age women represented how the eventual 22-mile greenway, which will run along the north side of the Wolf River from Mud Island to Houston Levee Road, will sew the community together with so many green threads. “We’re building trails to connect our people,” Wharton said before about 250 onlookers. “That makes it one Memphis.”

Previous projections for when the 22-mile trail would be completed have ranged from 10 to 15 years. The ground-breaking today took place at the site of the first segment (part of Phase II), a 1.3-mile path between Walnut Grove and Shady Grove roads, adjacent to Humphreys Blvd. Citing current civic “fiscal constraints,” Boyd said, “I would hesitate to put a time limit” on when the greenway would be completed. Wharton did not hesitate. “We had all the various links (planned) going back to 2004,” the mayor said. “It will go a link at a time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I would think over the next six, seven years it will be completed link by link.”

Construction of the first link, which will cost around $1.4 million, is to begin in a few days. On Thursday morning at 10, there will be another symbolic groundbreaking at Farm Road and Mullins Station for Shelby Farms Greenline, a rails-to-trails project on an abandoned stretch of CSX Railroad right-of-way secured by Shelby County largely with privately raised money. Phase I of the Greenline is a $2.4 million, 6.5-mile path that will connect several Midtown and East Memphis neighborhoods with Shelby Farms Park’s 4,500 acres. Rick Masson, executive director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, said it is “absolutely realistic” to finish the greenline and the greenway within the mayor’s six-to-seven-year projection.

Masson believes the completion of the respective trail systems will enhance Memphis in multiple ways. “It will greatly improve our self-image,” Masson said. “But it’s more than self-image. It will help make us healthier and get along better.” Cathy Distretti can’t wait to start pedaling on the new paths. Yes, she’s aware some people are concerned about crime on isolated stretches of the trails. But she has read where in other cities with greenways crime in those areas actually has gone down. Besides, she and her friends will do what they do now when they have to share the road with motorists – turn the wheels together. “We always ride in a group,” she said. “There’s safety in numbers.”

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