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Johnny Ryall Feb 27, 2010 6:03 PM

Memphis Metro Development
Mississippi Gaming Commission approves site for new Tunica casino
the Commercial Appeal | By Tom Bailey

The proposed $75million Sportsman Casino took its first step toward getting licensed in Tunica this week when the Mississippi Gaming Commission gave site approval. The next steps for Abston-McKay Ventures will be a little tougher, including getting approval to proceed. By then, the company must have gathered the money to finance the project, said Allen Godfrey, the commission’s deputy director.

Sportsman Casino would inhabit the site of the Isle of Capri, which closed Sept. 4, 2002. Mississippi has 30 casinos, including 10 in the Tunica area. Abston-McKay Ventures will “refurbish the entire site and re-orient the property towards Sam’s Town, Hollywood and Resorts casinos, which will significantly enhance the casino strip area,” Abston-McKay Venture’s attorney, Wilson Carroll, said in a prepared statement. Sportsman Casino would be about 50,000 square feet, more than three times the size of the Isle of Capris’ gaming space. Abston-McKay anticipates the casino to be completed in 15 to 18 months, according to CEO Kevin Hunter. Abston-McKay and Orr Family Properties would own the casino.

Johnny Ryall Mar 2, 2010 7:42 PM

MED Woes Could Be Solved With New Hospital
Memphis Daily News

The annual funding crisis at The Regional Medical Center serves as a reminder of how little politics in Memphis has changed despite all of the claims of new leadership. What has changed is the problem at the long-neglected MED is no longer once a year. It has now become a year-round problem that lacks the certainty of money running short just toward the end of the fiscal year. As Deputy Gov. John Morgan has noted, some fiscal and physical problems are tied together in the aging facility, which for years has never been more than a collection of pieces added onto one another at different times. But even the thought of a new MED seems too “pie in the sky” given the hospital’s struggle just to survive another day. Begging for public money from the same taxpayers who already fund The MED not only won’t save it, it might do more harm than good. It does not instill confidence in an institution unknown to most of us in its scope and excellence until the moments we dread the most for ourselves and those we love.

Those who lead and fund The MED must convince the public it will be run efficiently. The goal of efficiency is more than a question of whether the leadership wants to run it the right way. The question is, can The MED as currently configured run efficiently even with the best leadership available and the highest motives? We don’t believe it can. We call for a phased dissolution of The MED to be replaced by a new safety net hospital/trauma center. The successor to The MED will take some time to build and there should be ample time to plan it before the first shovelful of dirt is ever turned.

Some of the considerations in planning are:
The use of federal Homeland Security money to build a modern, safe structure.
A recognition by the state of Tennessee starting with the next governor that from now through at least the first five years of the new institution, The MED and its successor must get back all of the money they give the state via federal money for uncompensated care.
As much as possible an iron clad agreement with Mississippi and Arkansas for access to the new facility’s ER by their citizens who cannot pay.
The threat of litigation on the two prior points as a last resort.
A paring of some of the parts of The MED that are simply there because they have always been there.
A recognition that the trauma center and safety net function of the emergency room are the core mission.
A cleaner line of local authority and funding responsibility that rests with Shelby County government until or unless local government consolidation happens.

Johnny Ryall Mar 2, 2010 7:43 PM

I-69/269 corridor moving forward as supervisors consider firm for master plan
the Commercial Appeal | By Henry Bailey

The Interstate 69/269 International Trade Corridor -- envisioned as a route to continent-wide economic impact for DeSoto County -- is rolling on beyond the idea stage. The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider planners' recommendation of a Cincinnati-based firm to conduct a strategic development master plan for the corridor. McBride Dale Clarion was the unanimous choice of the 15-member DeSoto Planning Commission, which acted Thursday after seven submittals obtained in October were narrowed to that firm and Nashville-based PB Americas Inc. ''We're very excited to be at this stage of the selection process,'' said Jim McDougal, DeSoto Planning director. ''McBride is the group that ranked highest among the seven at the initial application stage, and it ranked higher when it was in the final two.'' Applicants were ranked in nine areas, including expertise in major corridor projects and in public outreach. The public equation is very important, McDougal said, in building community support through a large number of private and public stakeholders. The plan, which will receive federal funding, is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars with final figures to be negotiated after supervisors give the final approval.

DeSoto County has grown in population from about 50,000 in the early 1980s to more than 150,000 today, with an additional 100,000 people forecast over the next 20 years. The premise that supports the trade corridor, McDougal says, is the fact that the county is ideally positioned, both in geography and history, to be the cultural, economic, social and environmental center of the Mid-South. The corridor extends approximately 30 miles from U.S. 61 on the west to the DeSoto-Marshall county line on the east and will extend at least two miles on the north and south sides of the corridor. The planning area will encompass at least 120 square miles.

Johnny Ryall Mar 2, 2010 7:44 PM

Memphis Medical Center
Follett Corp. donates $250,000 for Southwest facility
Memphis Business Journal

Southwest Tennessee Community College has received a $250,000 donation from the Follett Higher Education Group for construction of the Nursing, Natural Sciences and Biotechnology facility to be built on the college’s Union Avenue campus. Follett Higher Education Group is a subsidiary of River Grove, Ill.-based Follett Corp., a $2.7 billion, privately-held company that provides products, services and solutions to the educational marketplace.

Southwest has raised $10 million of $16.75 million in funding for the proposed 74,000-square-foot facility. Southwest has received grants and donations from Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., private donors and the Assisi Foundation since the plans for the new facility were first announced in 2007.

Johnny Ryall Mar 2, 2010 7:46 PM

Here's an updated post & pic of the new medical office building @ Jackson,TN's impressive medical center. It's jewel being West TN Healthcare's Jackson-Madison Co. General Hospital, the epicenter of the state's largest public health system and a Level 2 Trauma Center. Let's hope TN governor Phil Bredesen doesn't try to destroy this fine public institution as the Regional Medical Center of Memphis' fresh blood ($80 million dollars of federal funding) drips from his corporatist fangs.

New medical office building scheduled to open Tuesday
the Jackson Sun | By NED B. HUNTER

Construction of the tower and the elevated walkway cost $16.7 million.

A new medical office building that incorporates the latest in surgical equipment, Internet technology and patient privacy is scheduled to open in March. The building's design also is expected to give doctors' more time with patients in exam rooms and at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. The reasons are the building's proximity to Jackson General and because its design clusters patient exam rooms around doctors' offices. "Everything flows in a circular fashion," said Dr. Brad Priester, "and that gets people into surgery faster." Priester is a retinal surgeon with Mid-South Retina Associates. His offices will be on the building's first floor. Internet and other industry innovations were adapted into the Medical Center Physicians Tower, which is to the south of Jackson General at 700 W. Forest Ave. Priester and his partner will use advanced microscopes to perform micro-surgery on the eyes. Health care system board members approved the purchase of three of the microscopes for not more than $385,000 at a Tuesday board meeting. "You will not be able to find a better microscope in the country after those arrive," Priester said. That technology, however, would be useless had engineers not installed the latest in air conditioning and humidity control systems in the medical office building. The systems create a nearly "fog" free environment inside surgical suites, Priester said, keeping equipment at optimal surgical status. "You cannot have any fogging occur when you are looking through the (eye pieces) of the microscope and other lenses," he said. "The air filtration system really enhances micro surgery."

The more than 106,000-square-foot Physicians Medical Tower is owned by Charlotte, N.C.-based Cogdell-Spencer, a Real Estate Investment Trust company. It was built on the south side of West Forest Avenue across from Jackson General by Erdman Co. - a division of Cogdell Spencer. It cost about $21 million to construct the five-story building. West Tennessee Healthcare, which owns Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, owns the land the building occupies. The health care system is renting the entire first and second floors and part of the third, from Cogdell Spencer. The tower's first floor will be used to perform outpatient surgery. The second floor will be a neurological center, while the third will house an in-house pharmacy. The first floor is just under 33,500 square feet. The health care system is leasing the floor for a little more than $698,000 annually for 20 years, according to hospital records. That does not include operating expenses. Utilities will be metered separately, and operating expenses will be billed monthly for actual cost. The second floor is just under 19,500 square feet. The health care system has a 10 year lease for $481,709 annually for that floor. That lease, however, includes all operating expenses, including utilities, real estate taxes, maintenance, janitorial services, etc. The third floor pharmacy is 662 square feet and is being leased for 10 years at an annual cost of just under $16,400, hospital records state. That lease also includes all operating expenses. Each of the three leases contain an annual increase equal to the Consumer Price Index.

Bobby Arnold, president and chief executive officer of West Tennessee Healthcare, said the system preferred to lease the building rather than pay for construction. "We weren't necessarily interested in owning office space for physicians," he said. He added, however, that the building is a necessary addition to the area's medical community. "We need more physicians in the community," he said, "and they need quality space like this in order to practice." West Tennessee Healthcare built and owns the eight-story parking garage that connects to the medical office building. The garage allows patients access to the building without being exposed to any inclement weather. There will be a second garage in the future. The health care system also built an elevated pedestrian walkway that spans West Forest Avenue. The walkway connects the medical tower to Jackson General's third floor elevator bank. The walkway keeps patients and hospital staff from having to cross West Forest Avenue. It is rated to sustain 190 mph winds, or the equivalent of an EF-4 tornado.

Johnny Ryall Mar 3, 2010 6:46 PM

Site Selection: Memphis ranks 9th for corporate expansions in 2009
Memphis Business Journal

Forbes magazine may say Memphis is ‘miserable,’ but Site Selection magazine has placed the metro area in its top 10 for new and expanded corporate facilities. The magazine ranked Memphis 9th in its “Top 10 Metro Areas: Tier One New and Expanded Facilities in 2009” for metros with a population over 1 million.

There were 58 new corporate location and expansion projects in 2009, according to Site Selection, bringing with them a total of 3,867 new jobs and more than $552 million in capital investment. Tennessee ranked No. 5 overall with 234 new corporate locations last year. The city’s ranking reassures leadership at the Greater Memphis Chamber that its MemphisED plan — the economic development piece of the broader Memphis Fast Forward initiative — is working, said Mark Herbison, the chamber’s senior vice president of economic development. “We continue to see a steady flow of existing and new companies looking at projects in Memphis, even during the sluggish economy,” Herbison said in a statement.

Site Selection’s research does not track retail and government projects, schools and hospitals. The expansions are all significant as well, since the magazine requires a project meet one of at least three criteria to be counted: involve a capital investment of at least $1 million; create at least 50 new jobs; or add at least 20,000 square feet of new floor area.

Johnny Ryall Mar 6, 2010 1:07 AM

Morgan Freeman’s club finds ground zero at former Pat O’Brien’s
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

By April, the former Pat O’Brien’s space on Beale Street should be ground zero for blues in Memphis. Ground Zero Blues Club is signing a lease there, moving from a 5,800-square-foot space at 158 Lt. George W. Lee Ave. to the 13,000-square-foot building at 310 Beale Street. “Our team is so excited,” says Natasha Huffstickler, managing partner of Ground Zero Blues Club. “It will be great to be a blues club on Beale Street, the home of the blues.”

William Luckett and actor Morgan Freeman founded the first Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Miss., in May 2001. They opened the second in Memphis in May 2008. This new space, which will have a juke joint theme throughout, will be almost three times larger than its current location. The former piano bar on the east side of the entrance will have a dining room and band area. A smaller room west of the entrance will have a sports bar focus. “Also, there is a lot of patio space which will have additional bands and live music,” Huffstickler says.

Ground Zero plans to use the building’s upstairs area for one of its niches: private parties and large events. The company has hosted events for everyone from Major League Baseball executives to the University of Memphis. “We’ve done so much of that, we’ve had to turn people away because we didn’t have enough room in our current location,” Huffstickler says. The company will also now be able to handle larger functions, like wedding receptions, without closing down its regular operations downstairs. The second floor has its own bar and an elevator. It can hold hundreds of people and can be sectioned off for smaller events. The second floor includes a 50-seat patio with views of Beale Street. Ground Zero has hired Oxy-3, Inc., to develop a marketing plan.

The company is moving its current staff of 15 employees to the new location and plans to hire additional servers, bartenders and kitchen staff. This lease is part of the latest effort to improve Beale Street between Rufus Thomas and Fourth Street, which includes Hard Rock Cafe, People’s Billiard Club and Eel-Etc. “This is part of our plan to redevelop that end of Beale Street,” John Elkington, CEO of Performa Entertainment Real Estate, Inc., says. “That whole end is going to be completely different.” Huffstickler says Nick Harmeier, sales and marketing manager at Hard Rock Cafe, has already reached out about partnering in events.

Johnny Ryall Mar 6, 2010 1:08 AM

Report: Memphis recovering from recession
Memphis Business Journal

Memphis is beginning to recover from the recession, according to the Adversity Index published by and Moody’s Memphis was boosted by a 23.8 percent increase in housing starts compared to 2008, even though employment fell 2.2 percent and industrial production was down 4 percent.

Chattanooga, Clarksville, Cleveland, Tenn., and Johnson City were also considered to be “recovering” by the end of 2009, according to the analysis, while Nashville, Jackson, Bristol and Morristown were all still in recession. The state as a whole was considered to be recovering.

Johnny Ryall Mar 6, 2010 1:08 AM

One-of-a-kind playground to sprout at Shelby Farms
the Commercial Appeal | By Tom Charlier

A 4-year-old delivered the welcoming remarks. A television news anchor read from Dr. Seuss. But if the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday was unconventional, so was the project it commemorated. The Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park, after all, is designed to shatter the traditional monkey-bars-and-swing-set mold. Part of a $3.5 million project, the playground will include an eclectic mix of features drawn from international research on "natural play," which encourages youngsters to be adventurous, creative, active and engaged. "We looked at playgrounds around the world," said Laura Adams, deputy director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, which operates the 4,500-acre park. "... We looked everywhere. We put it all together for the best imaginings we could come up with." The resulting design, by the firm field operations, centers on a serpentine, 1.5-mile-long willow arbor tunnel that opens into numerous rooms for play and wraps around several "nests" offering varying levels of activity. The playground, funded largely through a donation from the Plough Foundation, will be an "incredible asset" when it's completed late this fall, said interim county Mayor Joe Ford. Plough chairwoman Diane Rudner credited the efforts of local leaders over the past half-century to protect Shelby Farms from development proposals. And Barbara Hyde, who is chairwoman of the committee overseeing the master plan for Shelby Farms, said the playground will help create "the next great American park of the 21st century." A related project will restore the forested acreage adjacent to the playground. With the playground, Shelby Farms is embarking on an expansive scheme of improvements to be funded through a $75 million capital campaign. The improvements include a major expansion of Patriot Lake, a boathouse and amphitheater, a pedestrian bridge over the Wolf River, a water park, another playground, a cypress wetland area and the planting of 1million trees.

ChiSoxRox Mar 6, 2010 5:28 AM


Originally Posted by Johnny Ryall (Post 4633045)
Medical Center Light Rail Extension, $53,000,000

That is a sweet pic!

Johnny Ryall Mar 10, 2010 12:38 AM

Fairgrounds Jump Start on Council's Agenda
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

Memphis City Council members will be called on today to jump start the stalled renovation of The Fairgrounds. The push by the Liberty Bowl's three tenants is to get an immediate council vote on a plan to create a great lawn at the Fairgrounds and demolish seven buildings including the Pipkin Building. An ad hoc committee including council members and representatives of the three tenants met Monday evening to talk about current demolition underway at the Fairgrounds. The demolition of the old Libertyland amusement park caused some concern when it went into a parking area outside the park. Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones immediately began expressing concerns that the new activity as well as the digging of a temporary siltation pond would cut the number of parking spaces available for his annual Jackson State-Tennessee State football matchup. The work was stopped several weeks ago as the council tried to sort out where the demolition ended and the creation of a “great lawn” during the brief tenure of Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery began. “There’s a whole lot of work still being done,” Jones told the committee Monday evening of what he had seen earlier that day. City Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb said it was only a “clean up” of the area.

At Monday’s meeting, the three tenants of the football stadium said they back going ahead with the great lawn project as long as the lawn, in some form, and a plan to demolish the seven buildings, most of which are livestock barns, can all be done by the time football resumes at the Liberty Bowl with the Sept. 11 Southern Heritage Classic. Some of the demolition contracts run out next week. Jones said he supports the concept of a great lawn from East Parkway to the stadium. But he questioned whether the plans would increase the number of parking spaces from the current 5,372 within the Fairgrounds property to 7,568. “We need to know exactly what we have. I don’t mean conceptually,” Jones said. “You’re not creating new spaces.”

Architect Tom Marshall, the city’s consultant on the project, insisted new and more parking will be created with the demolition of the buildings and Libertyland. Marshall offered to come up with a detailed map showing individual parking spaces for today’s council discussion expected to begin during executive session at 1pm. “I’ll even put in big cars,” he told Jones at one point. Jones was the only no vote in the seven member committee vote to ask the city council for immediate approval of the project. “I’m not really satisfied with what I’ve seen,” he said after he and others said the work by some divisions of the city including the Park Services division didn’t mesh with what other parts of city government were saying. “It’s just too convenient that the park services people weren’t here. Every time we say there is additional parking, I have not seen it.”

Council member Reid Hedgepeth moderated the session, trying to keep all of those involved from discussing past mis-steps. “From now on people are going to know what’s happening,” he said. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it. If not … let’s send them home,” he said referring to demolition crews. Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart said pre bowl game events should have some kind of building on the grounds to host them. Lipscomb said a tent will serve the purpose even though Ehrhart would prefer one of the surviving Fairgrounds buildings. “A tent would be better than those buildings,” Lipscomb said.

Marshall estimated what is known as phase one of The Fairgrounds overhaul could cost $6-million to $9-million. There are no plans for a second phase or anything else beyond the great lawn and the building demolition. The phase one cost could vary depending on bids and design work still to be done. Construction would start in June. But the council could vote on a specific design in April or May. “We’re supportive of it,” University of Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said near the end of the two hour session. “I’m more and more concerned about the land. But we want to move on it.” The construction of the Salvation Army Kroc Center on a Fairgrounds lot along East Parkway next to Fairview Junior High School is independent of the city’s on again-off again plans for the rest of the Fairgrounds property including phase one.

Johnny Ryall Mar 10, 2010 12:39 AM

University of Memphis previews spacious new University Center
the Commercial Appeal | By Chris Conley

University of Memphis archaeology graduate student Ryan Parish takes his daughter, Ali, 2, on a tour of the new University Center on Monday afternoon. Some of the new building opens for business this week in preparation for a grand opening next Monday. Photo by Jim Weber

Scattered around the University of Memphis campus are metal signs that read "CU @ the UC." The "UC," the new University Center, doesn't officially open until next Monday, but it's already drawing rave reviews from the UofM community it's intended to serve. "It looks very open," said senior Jena Eubanks. At 173,000 square feet, the $50 million project "gives the illusion it is bigger than it is," she said. "I really love it," senior Ashley Smith said. "It's very modern." "It gives us a hearthstone, a living room to connect and create even more diversity," said Ron Crawford, assistant director of the center. Inside work on the building was about 70 percent complete as the week began.

Inside the three-story red-brick building, intense natural light streams through a huge skylight in the middle. The layout helps pull the light into the offices, technology hubs, meeting halls, the 1,000-seat ballroom and the 350-seat theater. The natural lighting is enhanced by hanging reflectors that direct the light into what would otherwise be dark areas. It's a concept borrowed from ancient Egyptian constructions, Crawford said. Between 4,000 and 6,000 people are expected to move through the building in a given day.

The University Center represents the largest capital construction project in campus history. The 260,000-square-foot Ned R. McWherter Library, which opened in 1994, cost $26.5 million to construct. A $24.8 million living complex, with 486 beds, is expected to be completed by summer on the western edge of the campus. A food court on the University Center ground floor contains a Burger King Whopper Bar; a Taco Bell Express; Miso noodle, rice and sushi restaurant; Topio's classic pizza; Bistro Nineteen Twelve (no connection to Cafe 1912 on Cooper); and Tiger's of Memphis. There's also a Dunkin' Donuts in the building.

"We wanted something that was open, appealing and light," said Reb Haizlip, the building architect, "something to bring people together from all parts of the campus." Haizlip, who designed The Children's Museum of Memphis on Central, worked on the University Center for six years. The concept was to marry a traditional, monumental exterior consistent with the rest of the campus architecture with a more adventurous inside construction. "If we control the lighting, people will be magnetically attracted to being there," Haizlip said. "We carved a hole in the middle of the building and filled it with natural light," he said. "I think it will be a focal point for the campus," said Laura Hoffman, an employee in the second-floor Involvement Zone, where student organizations have offices. "It was a dreary day the other day," she said, "but it was so bright when I came in here."

Johnny Ryall Mar 10, 2010 12:40 AM

Another one for The Edge
Memphis developer to start construction of 50-unit apartment complex on Union this summer
the Commercial Appeal | By Wayne Risher

Cotton Mills, an apartment development at 607 Monroe in the Edge neighborhood east of Downtown, is moving closer to construction, a developer said today. Tony Crosby, managing partner of Memphis Student Housing LLC, said he hopes to have the 50-unit building under construction this summer. Crosby won Center City Revenue Finance Corp. approval of a one-year extension of a deadline for closing on a tax freeze for the project. Capping the property tax assessment at a pre-development rate for nine years would save the developers about $660,000. Crosby said the project had been delayed as developers worked out easement agreements with neighbors. The apartment site is between Kudzu’s, a bar and grill at 603 Monroe, and International Baptist Church at 627 Monroe, on a vacant lot that overlooks Union Avenue across from The Commercial Appeal.

Johnny Ryall Mar 10, 2010 12:41 AM

Expose on Triad Centre III and official tip-off about new 939 Shady Grove Bldg.
Apperson Crump adapts to one of city's newest, eco-friendly offices
the Commercial Appeal | By Wayne Risher

Three months after moving into one of the city's newest, greenest office buildings, a venerable Memphis law firm is still adjusting to the quirks. Apperson Crump firm senior partners can't park in the best spaces because they're reserved for low-emission and carpool vehicles. Lights go out without warning if workers don't get up and move around every 30 minutes. No one has used the showers on the first floor, but changing facilities and a bicycle rack will be there when employees start biking to work.

Apperson Crump became the anchor tenant of Triad Centre III in December, moving to 6070 Poplar from 6000 Poplar, both in the Highwoods Properties development. Managing partner Richard Myers said the firm was looking for expansion room, not environmental brownie points, when it entered into a 10-year lease to occupy the top two floors of the seven-story building. Its 46 employees include about 25 lawyers, "and we are in conversation with about 10 more who have expressed an interest in joining us." Myers said Highwoods made "an offer we couldn't refuse" because of operating savings from what developers say will be Memphis' first office building with the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification.

Features include water-saving low-flow plumbing fixtures and drip irrigation for landscaping; building-wide recycling of paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans; and sun-reflecting roof and parking lot surface. Steve Guinn, vice president of Highwoods Memphis division, said, "We're looking to recoup our extra expense through operating savings. Our utility costs will be somewhat less. Our water savings, it's small money, but it adds up over a long period of time."

Triad Centre III followed Boyle Investment Co.'s opening of the SunTrust Building, 999 Shady Grove, in late 2008. Boyle has registered its next planned building at 939 Shady Grove to be LEED-compliant, but hasn't gotten close enough to construction to make a commitment, said Boyle executive vice president Mark Halperin. "I do think in the future new buildings are going to be LEED-certified," he said.

Founded in 1865 by a Confederate veteran of Shiloh, Charles Wesley Metcalf, Apperson Crump bills itself as oldest continuously operating law firm in the city. Metcalf's great-grandson is Met Crump, whose The Crump Firm designed the building. Myers said LEED-related features have come with a learning curve. Employees complained this winter about cool temperatures, but the thermostat is controlled off-site. It's disconcerting for lights to go out in the middle of a lawyer-client conference, Myers said.

Guinn said developers feared they were going overboard with 50 reserved spaces, but got twice that many requests for low-emission parking stickers for the three-building complex. Barbara Hepburn, a secretary and paralegal, was delighted to get a prime parking space for her Pontiac G5, which qualified as a low-emissions vehicle. "I think it's great, because we need to learn to save energy," said Hepburn. Myers said when he trades his Ford SUV, he may think about a greener machine. "Am I going to get a car so I can park 10 yards closer to the building?" Myers said. "Maybe that's something that tips me over the edge."

Johnny Ryall Mar 12, 2010 12:20 AM

Fairgrounds Work Gets Greenlight From Council
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

Demolition work at The Fairgrounds resumes now that the Memphis City Council has greenlighted the idea of a “great lawn” off East Parkway. Future council votes are still to come on starting $600,000 in design work and then approving the design. All city work at The Fairgrounds on the demolition and clean up of the old Libertyland amusement park, a temporary siltation pond and some asphalt removal was stopped several weeks ago.

Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones questioned whether the changes would mean fewer parking spaces for those attending the September football match up as well as for tailgaters at University of Memphis football games and the New Year’s eve Liberty Bowl classic. Meanwhile, an attorney for Jones’ Summitt Management Corporation (SMC) sent the city a letter Tuesday proposing an amendment to the city’s five year lease with the annual Tennessee State-Jackson State matchup.

The existing agreement pledges that the city will “make every reasonable and good faith effort” to provide a minimum of 5,255 parking spaces from the existing 6,255 parking spaces. “My understanding is that parking has already been reduced by more than 1,000 spaces,” wrote attorney Matthew P. Cavitch. “The city has recently assured SMC not to worry, that by game day the city will actually provide 7,500 spaces. That would be wonderful, but at this moment, there is no reason for SMC to trust such a promise.” Cavitch proposes an amendment in which the city pays Summitt “liquidated damages” of $200,000 a year if there are not at least 7,500 parking spaces.

Council members were aware of the letter as they met for the second time in as many days to discuss whether to move with some renovation of The Fairgrounds. A rejection of the great lawn preliminary work or no vote at all would have meant leaving The Fairgrounds as is indefinitely. The lawn work and building demolition couldn’t have been completed by the time the Sept. 11 Southern Heritage Football classic begins the next football season at the stadium. The general plan approved by the council Tuesday evening on a 10-0 vote allows for the demolition of six Fairgrounds Buildings excluding the Mid-South Coliseum, the Women’s Center near the old Libertyland site, and the Arena Building. The Arena Building is where the Liberty Bowl hosts an annual gathering of 5,000 for the visiting teams and their families and friends each year. The Wharton administration wants to move the gathering to a large tent. But Liberty Bowl organizers and the city are still talking about which will pay the estimated cost of approximately $100,000 for the tent. The Arena Building could be added to the list of buildings to be demolished if an agreement is reached on the cost of the tent.

Johnny Ryall Mar 12, 2010 12:21 AM

Born in Memphis in the '70s, St. Blues guitars will now be made here
the Commercial Appeal | By Toby Sells

Tom "TK" Keckler, who designed the Bluesmaster in the 1970s, checks the action on a new St. Blues model recently as head of quality control for St. Blues Guitars. He also runs T.K.'s Guitar Services out of the St. Blues Guitar Workshop on Marshall.

The St. Blues Guitar Workshop story has everything a Memphis music story ought to have. It has a humble but precocious beginning, and a cast of characters from Elvis to Duck Dunn to MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden. It has failure, redemption and a new road to the future.In fact, that Memphis essence is what the boutique guitar maker hangs its hat on.

St. Blues is consolidating all domestic manufacturing of its guitars at its Marshall Avenue facility, which will bring 25-30 jobs to the city.

"Memphis is a powerful brand in the music world," said St. Blues CEO Bryan M. Eagle III. "I looked around ... and said we've got as much right as anybody to plant the flag in the ground and say that we're 'the' Memphis guitar company." That right came from the company's storied past. St. Blues' signature guitar design, the Bluesmaster, began with a local musician everyone still just calls "TK." Tom Keckler, whose band The Breakers once headlined a show opened by The Yardbirds, mixed two popular guitar designs to form the Bluesmaster in the 1970s.

After a stint at Mike Ladd's Guitar Center, where he built and customized guitars for Elvis Presley and Jimmy Page, Keckler joined Strings & Things in Memphis, where he built guitars for Little Milton and Jeff Beck. He then joined a group to found Schecter Guitar Research in California, which is still a popular guitar brand. But the Bluesmaster design and the St. Blues brand were all but defunct by the late 2000s. Eagle breathed new life into them when he bought the brand rights and guitar designs in 2007. Since then, the company has assembled, shipped and sold its guitars from a manufacturing facility and retail shop at 645 Marshall.

St. Blues is also looking ahead with a renovation project that will give tourists a new place to learn about Memphis music and will bring all of the company's domestic manufacturing in-house. Eagle said the company will transform the front of its Edge-district facility into a sort of Memphis music museum to attract some of the nearly 100,000 tourists who visit its neighbor, Sun Studio, each year. Eagle said he hopes to have the project complete by August. The back of the building will become a guitar manufacturing facility that will bring to Memphis over the next three years 25-30 jobs that are now farmed out to companies in Nashville and Bozeman, Mont., Eagle said.

Andy Kitsinger, vice president of planning and development for the Center City Commission, said the CCC has expanded its retail incentives to include The Edge district and expects more retail to fill in there as the district grows. "Part of the momentum that is occurring in The Edge is the reason we are trying to build on the retail synergies there and have labeled it as a target area," Kitsinger said. "(The Edge) supports the core of Downtown and it also supports the medical center, and it's reinforcing transit-oriented development along Madison as well."

St. Blues Guitar Workshop
Market: More than 50 retailers in 27 states and Puerto Rico
Retail prices: $994 to $2,395
Of note: U2's Bono played a Bluesmaster when the band recorded "Rattle and Hum" at Sun Studio

Johnny Ryall Mar 21, 2010 6:57 PM

Elvis royalties rocket up by 34.6 percent
Memphis Business Journal - by Jane A. Donahoe Photo Credit : COURTESY ELVIS PRESLEY ENTERPRISES

Elvis may have left the building, but his star power is still growing. Elvis Presley Enterprises parent company CKx Inc. released its annual report Tuesday, which showed a 34.6 percent increase in Presley royalties and licensing revenue. The Presley business segment of CKx brought in $24.473 million in royalties and licensing revenue in 2009, compared to $18.186 million in 2008. Attendance at Elvis’ Memphis home was also up in 2009. 542,728 people went to Graceland in 2009, a 1.2 percent increase compared to 536,196 in 2008. Revenue from Graceland’s operations fell slightly to $36.124 million in 2009, a 1.6 percent drop compared to $36.713 million in 2008.

CKx also noted in the report that its planned, $250 million redevelopment initiative for Graceland and the surrounding area would need some retooling. It has been short on specifics for its redevelopment plan since it began acquiring land surrounding the deceased star's Whitehaven mansion. “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 the current economic conditions and a lack of certainty as to exact scope, cost, financing plan and timing of this project,” according to the report. Another wrinkle in the redevelopment effort is the terminated relationship between CKx and FX Real Estate and Entertainment Inc. The two companies entered into an agreement in 2007 that would grant FXRE the exclusive right to own, develop and operate Elvis-themed hotels, casinos and other real estate-based projects. The relationship officially dissolved in March 2009 when FXRE failed to make its annual $10 million guaranteed royalty payment, according to CKx’s report.

FXRE originally was set to develop one or more hotels at Graceland as a piece of the redevelopment project. CKx wrote off $900,000 in deferred costs related to preliminary design work for the redevelopment, but also said it “remains committed to the Graceland redevelopment and will continue to pursue opportunities on its own or with third parties.” CKx, through a partnership with Cirque du Soleil, recently opened a permanent live theatrical show based on the life, times and music of Elvis. The show, presented at the new Aria Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas strip, opened performances in February. New York-based CKx (NYSE: CKXE) maintains an 85 percent ownership in Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Johnny Ryall Mar 21, 2010 6:58 PM

Ritchie Smith to work on Discovery Park
Memphis Business Journal

Ritchie Smith Associates has been chosen to lead the planning and implementation of the multi-phase site plan of the $100 million Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn. Memphis-based Ritchie Smith Associates specializes in landscape architecture, urban design and planning. Its portfolio of work includes projects at Memphis Botanic Garden, Tunica River Park, Memphis College of Art and improvements to Overton Park. Work has resumed on the project after a lengthy delay due to a change in architects. The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation, principal benefactor of Discovery Park, has named Verner Johnson Inc. of Boston as the new architect for the venue. Verner Johnson chose Ritchie Smith Associates as part of its team. Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group Inc. developed the site master plan for Discovery Park and was a finalist to be project's architect before Verner Johnson was chosen.

Discovery Park will be an educational venue for children and adults to learn more about history, nature, art and science. In addition to designing the main exhibit building, Discovery Center, Verner Johnson will also oversee the implementation of the site master plan and all exhibit design and fabrication. The foundation originally hired Ottawa-based Douglas Cardinal Architects Inc. as the project architect, but terminated the contract in the summer of 2009 after a dispute over performance and fees. The foundation was established by the family that started Jackson, Tenn.-based Kirkland’s Inc. (NASDAQ: KIRK). The project was originally intended to open in late 2010, but now its estimated completion date has been pushed to September 2012, according to a foundation press release. Selected from approximately 70 architectural firms, Verner Johnson specializes exclusively in museum architecture and planning and has completed more than 200 projects throughout the world, including several for the Smithsonian museums.

Work in the first phase is expected to begin late this summer with additional grading and other site preparation. Soon thereafter, landscaping work and the relocation of historic buildings will begin. Water will be a prominent feature of the site, with several pools and a stream that flows north to south throughout the park. There will be landscaped paths along the stream with several bridges. The Discovery Center will have approximately 35,000 square feet of exhibit space devoted to education in history, nature, science and art. The building will include a cafe, museum store, and a space for special events that will accommodate approximately 300 people.

Johnny Ryall Mar 21, 2010 6:58 PM

Delta’s Cincinnati hub takes another hit, Memphis International well positioned for future growth
Memphis Business Journal - by Jane A. Donahoe

Cincinnati’s loss could be Memphis’ gain. As Delta Air Lines Inc. continues to bleed jobs and flights at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, its future in Memphis seems well in tact. Delta is eliminating 840 jobs when it phases out operations in Concourse A at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The changes are to take place by May 1, when Atlanta-based Delta (NYSE: DAL) had previously announced a reduction in daily flights from 180 to between 160 and 170. The airline currently operates about 220 daily flights at Memphis International Airport. Delta currently operates out of 50 airport gates in Cincinnati, including 22 in Concourse A. After the consolidation, it will operate out of 28 gates, all in Concourse B, and will employ 2,200 Delta workers and 1,800 workers at its Comair unit, an airline spokesman said.

While he doesn’t “wish any harm to Cincinnati,” Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president and CEO Larry Cox admitted that Cincinnati’s loss is probably good for Memphis’ future as a Delta hub. Delta has been steadily cutting service at the Cincinnati airport in recent years. In late 2009, Delta said it would reduce daily flights from 215 to 180-190. Delta had more than 600 daily departures as recently as 2005 and Cincinnati was considered to be the second-largest hub in Delta's system. “Cincinnati has taken a huge cut, and essentially their hub is almost gone. It’s hanging on by a thread,” Cox said.

When Delta acquired Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines Corp. in October 2008, it took over Northwest’s three U.S. hubs in Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Detroit. Delta already had U.S. hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Salt Lake City. Part of Cincinnati’s woes can be attributed to its proximity to Detroit and Minneapolis and the number of surrounding airports nearby, according to Cox. Delta performed well in Cincinnati before the Northwest merger because it was competing with Northwest in Detroit and Minneapolis. “Now Detroit and Minneapolis are complementary hubs. Memphis and Atlanta are complementary hubs,” Cox said. “It sort of leaves Cincinnati all out in the pasture by themselves.”

Cox said Delta officials have assured him they are committed to Memphis as a complementary hub for Atlanta. Good weather and a low cost structure are two of the reasons Delta has been able to perform well locally, he said. “(Delta is) absolutely committed to Memphis for the long haul as a complementary hub for Atlanta,” Cox said. “We’re confident that with growth in the economy, Memphis is going to grow and get more service.” Memphis’ cost per enplaned passenger is the lowest in Delta’s system, Cox said, mainly due to the fact that Memphis does not charge a passenger facility fee, typically $4.50 per passenger. “If Delta wasn’t making money in Memphis, I assure you they wouldn’t be here,” Cox said, “The Memphis hub is performing as well as any of the hubs they have.” Delta officials said as much in a Feb. 22 announcement that the airline was adding direct service from Memphis to Amarillo, Texas, and Evansville, Ind., as well as restoring twice-daily direct service to Toronto. “Operationally our Memphis hub has been one of our highest performing hubs and with the overwhelming community support it is perfectly positioned for this additional service,” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s executive vice president of network planning and revenue management, said in the Feb. 22 statement. There are several projects under way at Memphis International that are improving its function and allure, and prepping it to be ready for an economic turnaround in the airline industry.

Meanwhile, the airline is working to restore profitability at the Cincinnati hub, Gil West, senior vice president of airport customer service, said in a memo to Delta’s Cincinnati employees. “Delta continues to partner with the Cincinnati community to take steps to return the hub to profitability by focusing service on markets with the highest level of local demand and by implementing necessary cost-saving initiatives that make doing business in Cincinnati more efficient,” West said in the memo.

Johnny Ryall Mar 21, 2010 6:59 PM

Ring in the New Year at the Liberty Bowl
Memphis Business Journal

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl is moving back to New Year’s Eve. The 52nd annual game — which will be nationally televised by ESPN — will be played Friday, Dec. 31 at 2:30 p.m. The 2009-10 season’s Liberty Bowl game between the University of Arkansas and East Carolina University, played on Jan. 2, had a TV rating of 3.8, according to Nielsen Media Research. The game’s rating was up 65 percent from the previous year when Kentucky played East Carolina. The Dec. 31 date is “one of the most sought-after on the bowl schedule this year,” according to a statement from AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s office.

The Liberty Bowl’s affiliation with the Southeastern Conference expired after the 2009-10 season and the affiliation has not yet been renewed. Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart said the two parties are close to securing a new agreement. The bowl still has three years left in its affiliation with Conference USA. The fact that the game falls on a holiday in 2010 means more fans will be able to attend, Ehrhart said in the statement.

A sell-out crowd of 62,742 people attended the Arkansas-East Carolina game, the second-highest attendance in the game’s history. The highest attendance the bowl game ever recorded was the 2007 contest between Mississippi State University and the University of Central Florida when 63,816 people attended. A few hundred seats were removed from the stadium in 2009 to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

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