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$225M One Beale riverfront development to open with hotel, apartments, dining

Plans for the One Beale riverfront redevelopment project have changed many times over the past 15 years as developers adapted to construction challenges and unstable economic conditions.

With the addition early last year of a critical piece of property, the historic Ellis Machine Shop at the west end of Beale Street, developer Carlisle LLC revived the $225 million project and now plans to start construction by early next year.

“We’ve tried to keep it neighborhood friendly and skyline changing,” said Chance Carlisle, CEO of Carlisle, LLC. “It certainly will be dramatically different.”

The $130 million first phase will include a 227-room Hyatt Centric hotel, 227 apartments, two signature restaurants with riverfront views, retail space, and a 475-spot parking garage. The second phase will include the development of 200,000 to 400,000 square feet of Class A office.

Carlisle’s late father, Gene Carlisle, began redeveloping the riverfront area nearly 40 years ago with what is now the MLGW Garage at 236 South Front Street, which was originally named the Beale Street Landing Garage.

“Through multiple iterations and decades, we’ve always thought the sports and entertainment district should connect to the riverfront,” said Carlisle.

The land acquisition from Ellis & Sons increased the project’s size from two acres to 5.5 acres, dramatically changing the overall design. Now, the new hotel will sit atop the bluff sloping toward the river, with the office space, residential buildings and a restaurant planned for the adjacent land below and to the west.

Plans for One Beale date back to 2003, when a straight line wind storm known as Hurricane Elvis demolished what was then the Carlisle Landing office buildings on Front Street.

“That really jumpstarted the redevelopment of the property,” said Carlisle.

The original proposal around that time called for a large mixed-use, 1 million-square-foot tower with a subterranean parking garage on one acre. Seismic requirements resulted in multiple design phases, pushing the timeline to 2007. By then the market had changed, so project designers went back to the drawing board to create a mixed-use twin tower concept with a residential condo component.

Then the Great Recession hit.

“We were fortunate to not be under construction when hit by the Great Recession,” said Carlisle. “So we mothballed the condominiums as the housing crisis set in, and then we mothballed the whole development when we realized we going to have a hard time keeping the hotel full.”

By 2011, the project was renewed as an apartment tower with some office space that still resembled a twin tower design. The seismic bug struck again, however, and by 2015 it was decided that the site seismically could not safely support a Type A1 podium concrete development with subterranean parking.

Carlisle took over redevelopment of the Chisca Hotel during that span, so the One Beale project was again mothballed until last year when the Ellis family decided to sell their property, which they had owned since the mid-1800s. The biggest impediments to the project in years past had been that the Ellis family still owned and operated their business from the buildings near the project's proposed site.

That acquisition allowed the developer to master plan the site and paved the way to have parking above-ground yet hidden from site from the riverfront.

“What has always snake bit us was the parking solution,” said Carlisle. “It’s just prohibitively expensive to build subterranean parking in downtown Memphis. People always asked ‘what’s the density look like?’ or ‘what’s the skyline changing features?’ because our twin towers had gone away. While it’s true that they are mid-rise structures now instead of high-rise buildings, it’s a bit deceiving because they’re there to hide the garage, which no one wants to see on the bluff.”

Carlisle will develop mixed-use residential apartment component with 227 apartments, 15,000 square feet of office space, and 10,000 square feet of riverfront restaurant space, where local restaurateurs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman will create a riverfront restaurant.

The full-service, four-star Hyatt Centric hotel will include 15,000 square feet of conference and meeting space on Beale Street, and will include the renovation of two of the buildings of the Ellis Machine Shops into part of its conference center.

"It's really a hotel that caters to people who want to explore the city," said Mark Weaver, principal at HBG Design and lead architectural designer for the hotel at One Beale. "The mission all along has been to create a unique project for Memphis. So we're trying to incorporate history and context for the site that we're on, which is the old Ellis Machine Shops."

The new nine-story Hyatt hotel will also include a signature restaurant with a view overlooking the river and bridge, an outdoor pool plaza and a rooftop bar with views of Downtown and the Mississippi River.

"It will be unlike anything in Memphis currently, with great panoramic views of the river and Downtown," said Weaver. "The hotel is a bit scaled down from previously, but this building will still be very prominent on the skyline at the foot of Beale Street. We're excited to see the project move forward."

Hyatt Hotels will be a 50 percent joint venture owner of the hotel and manage the hotel through a long-term management agreement.

The hotel was separated from the multifamily units to make way for an office tower, which will be developed as part of Phase 2 by Highwoods Properties. Plans call for 200,000 to 400,000 square feet of Class A office space, and Highwoods

Memphis-based HBG Design created the hotel designs, and Studio Architects handled the multifamily designs for the project. General contractors will be selected by end of this year. Completion of the first phase is expected by late 2020.

Highwood Properties will develop the office building in the second phase, and the developer is working with the Memphis Chamber of Commerce and Carlisle to secure an anchor tenant.

Former Southern Hot Wings Fest champions open new food truck

The New Wing Order food truck will hit the Memphis streets in September, and entrepreneurs Cole Forrest and Jess McDonald hope their new venture could lead to opening a brick-and-mortar location in the next couple of years.

Forrest and McDonald, who met as students at Snowden Middle School, stayed connected through the years. With one friend in Memphis and the other in Nashville, they found an opportunity to come together by participating in local cook-offs. Eventually, their Memphis Buffalo hot wing recipe garnered them top marks at the Southern Hot Wing Festival, which is held every April in Memphis. They've won twice in the past four years. 

 “So we said, “’This has been fun. Let’s see where this could go from a business standpoint’.”

McDonald had been working for Music City Brisket food truck in Nashville during that time but wanted to move back to Memphis with his family. He had quit his corporate job in 2011 to pursue his passion in the restaurant industry.

“I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and having a food truck is a cheaper way to start out,” said McDonald, who will handle the day-to-day operations of the new truck.

The pair say the truck's route will target Downtown, Midtown, Crosstown, South Memphis, Collierville and Cordova.

“One of the benefits of having a food truck is you can really find where your target market is versus planting roots right in the beginning and hoping you found the right spot,” said Forrest, who will handle scheduling and serve as the new company’s director of marketing.

The menu, which was mostly developed by McDonald, will feature 16 different kinds of wings, along with BBQ nachos, hot wing nachos, and three types of tacos including a vegan-friendly avocado taco.

“We try to do a lot of hybrid flavors and things you probably don’t see at other restaurants or trucks,” said Forrest. “We do things like a Lynchburg fire sauce that’s infused with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Whiskey. We do a Cajun honey hot, and then on the dry seasoning side we have garlic parmesan and lemon pepper. We try to have wide variety of not flavors but also heat levels.”

The entrepreneurs purchased their truck in early August and are in the process of getting ready for the road with new signage. McDonald estimates the startup cost for the truck at around $80,000.

New Wing Order’s grand opening will happen at four locations around town: September 7 at Meddlesome Brewing Company in Cordova, September 8 at Ghost River Brewing Co. downtown, September 14 at the Memphis Made Brewing Company in Midtown, and September 16 at Saddle Creek Beer Garden in Germantown.

After a few years of having the truck and being able to serve different parts of Memphis to find of where the product is resonating, the partners hope to find a place to do a brick-and-mortar operation while keeping the truck operational.

McDonald cites invaluable help and advice received from local mentors at Score Memphis, El Mero Taco, Memphis Food Truck Association and the Memphis Food Truck Alliance.

“After five years, I’d like to have a restaurant. That’s our ultimate goal,” said McDonald. “I’m never going to get rid of the truck. What I think it is best for is to have a restaurant and then using the truck for things like festivals and catering.”

The pair is quick to point out that even after the truck launches, they will still be competing at festivals and raising money for different local causes.

They plan to donate 1 percent of the food truck profits to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital every year. Two part-time staffers will be hired in August, and more hires could follow.

Stationery company moves to former bakery in the Edge District

After relocating several times over the past 20 years due as her business grew, entrepreneur Karen Adams has purchased an Edge District building to be the home of Karen Adams Design, a stationery company.   

“We love the historical part of Memphis, and we also like the creative vibe that’s going on in the Edge District,” said Adams, who started her custom stationary and design business in 1999.

“We started out in my guest house, and the business has slowly grown. We started out doing custom stationary, and it has evolved to where we do greeting cards and gift products.”

Today, the company sells domestically and internationally.

Adams graduated with a major in fashion design from Rhode Island School of Design in the mid-1990s and worked in New York before moving to Memphis with her husband. Post-guest house, Adams worked Downtown in the PaperWorks Building and then moved to Tennessee Street, where eventually she was given the option to either buy the building or move within one month. So she moved her operations to 2635 Broad Avenue before deciding it was time to make a brick-and-mortar investment.

“We had always leased and finally decided it was time to purchase somewhere and settle down and place some roots,” said Adams. “As we were leasing larger and larger spaces, it just wasn’t worth spending so much money and not making an investment in our own business.”

At 12,000 square feet, the new space at 647 Madison Avenue will be twice as large as the space on Broad Avenue. Approximately half will be used for warehouse purposes, and the other half will be administrative and production space.

"The Edge District is one of the last districts with second- and third-generation product available on the ground," said Robert Taylor, affiliate broker with Raspberry CRE, which handled the building acquisition for Adams.

"It was a little bit difficult to put together in the sense that so much development is happening down in the Edge District right now. I don't know if you would call it luck or just diligence that we were able to find a place that worked for them in the heart of the city."

The former Camp Building at 647 Madison, which shares a contiguous wall with Sam Phillips Recording Studio, was built it 1945 and originally housed a bakery until the mid-1960s. In fact, the design of the front of the building was louvered open to deflect heat from the building.

Adams purchased the building earlier this year for $350,000, and the total project cost is expected to be up to $1.5 million. To help with renovation costs, Adams received an exterior improvements grant from the Downtown Memphis Commission.

“It’s in really bad shape,” said Adams. “We’re basically gutting it and rebuilding it to the best of our ability that we can afford.”

Extensive renovation work will include removing asbestos and installing a new roof. Roughly 500 square feet of the building that had formerly been an apartment is being converted into an Airbnb. Local contractor Tom Archer and Archer Custom Builders are handling the work.

Becoming a building owner has not been without its challenges for Adams.

“It’s been interesting going about this as somebody who’s never done this before because I am learning the hard way [about things like applying for a PILOT],” she said. “The steps have to be coordinated in a particular way, and as somebody who is not experienced doing it, it’s hard to know that on the front end.”

She’s hoping the building, which will have 10 full-time employees, along with an additional eight to 10 temporary employees during the company’s holiday rush from the end of August to the end of January, will be ready for move in by the first quarter of next year.

“It will be fabulous because we’ll be able to house everything under one roof,” said Adams. “Being at the office will make everything flow better.”

Former residents of Foote Homes re-imagine their neighborhood in urban planning summer camp

Local high school students participating in a summer camp at Knowledge Quest are improving their neighborhood by developing ways of remediating South Memphis' blight and vacant properties. 

Housed at Knowledge Quest, Design Lab Summer Intensive is a six-week, free, co-ed, day camp. Over the summer, students learned how to assess blighted properties, substandard housing, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots by using Loveland Innovations software.

“Last year we focused on innovative strategies around homelessness, and this year we chose blight,” said Knowledge Quest founder and Executive Director Marlon Foster. “I personally live and work in South Memphis, so blight and vacant lots are things that are in our faces all the time.”

Land reuse is a relevant cause to Knowledge Quest as the South Memphis-based nonprofit has transformed 30 formerly vacant lots and three abandoned buildings into the campus' Green Leaf Learning Farm, 

"So we’re big on having positive reuse strategies,” said Foster.

The 30 high school students, many of whom once lived in the former Foote Homes public housing development (itself an abandoned structure while redevelopment takes place), performed property condition surveys on 3,000-plus land parcels in ZIP 38126.

Knowledge Quest is a contracted partner to engage the youth of the former Foote Homes complex and keep them connected to the neighborhood while the 420-unit housing project is replaced with 712 units of mixed-income housing. 

Related: "South City: Housing a neighborhood in transition"

After dividing into three teams, the students selected specific properties and came up with creative solutions to bring them back to life.

“The kids had some incredible ideas, and the program helps them become innovators and doers in their neighborhoods,” said Austin Harrison, project manager with Neighborhood Preservation Inc., a Memphis-wide advocacy group that focuses on removing barriers to neighborhood revitalization.

On July 23, the students presented their ideas at the Knowledge Quest summer showcase at the W.W. Herenton Renaissance Center.

“The students did an awesome job,” said Foster. “What really impressed me was that it wasn’t just abstract ideas. They went to the level of identifying their prospective properties and building 3D prototypes. It was very encouraging stuff.”

Concepts included transforming a blighted building at 509 Walker Avenue into an arcade, converting a vacant lot at 769 S. Danny Thomas Boulevard into a community center and restaurant, and remodeling a large dilapidated property at 643 Wicks Avenue into a daycare, thrift store, grocery store and homeless shelter.

“People who stay at the shelter would also have work equity and a chance to learn tangible skills as their way of staying there,” said Harrison of the students' proposal.

The proposed designs showed an acute understanding of South Memphis' overlapping needs. The proposed daycare would be a place where the homeless could leave their children as they work or look for employment, and the grocery would address food desert concerns of the area. The thrift store would serve as a place for the homeless to acquire the things they need in order to seek employment, and toys donated to the shop could be donated to the daycare.

Foster was particularly impressed by how the high school students accommodated caring for younger children of the community into their plans.

Overall, the goal is to help young people have an active voice for change in their communities.

“One of the most exciting things about the projects for me was just the opportunity for the kids to realize that this is a career,” said Harrison. “Community development is a field that needs people. There’s not a lot of full-time community development experience and staff, and many times you hear of organizations having to bring in people from other cities to fill the voids in urban planning, design and development jobs in Memphis.”

The Design Lab Summer Intensive was funded by a donation from Urban Strategies Memphis HOPE and the Memphis Housing Authority, and partners included Neighborhood Preservation Inc. and Innovate Memphis.

The City's latest MWBE inclusion numbers show growth & minority-owned business accelerator kicks off

Propel, a business accelerator for existing minority-owned businesses, is launching its next cohort in the midst of several new city-backed initiatives intended to boost the wealth and diversity of the Memphis economy. 

In late May, Mayor Jim Strickland announced support for The 800 Initiative, an intensive effort to grow minority-owned businesses with targeted grants, loans and technical assistance. 

Propel, an accelerator housed at Start Co., is part of the City's overall strategy. The 12-week minority business accelerator builds capacity of existing minority companies by offering a series of hands-on programming, mentor opportunities, technical resources and more.

“With Propel, as we saw the tangible benefits for business owners in increasing their capacity on the revenue side, hiring more people, and being able to take on contracting opportunities in the public and private sectors, we had the thought of putting Propel on steroids where we could impact even more businesses,” said said Joann Massey, director of the City of Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance.

Related: "Start Co. launches first cohort of minority-owned businesses"

The accelerator is now taking its final applications for its fourth cohort of minority-owned businesses. The deadline to apply for the Propel program’s next cohort is July 30, and programming will begin in August. Previous cohorts consisted of eight to ten teams with annual revenue ranging from $250,000 to $2 million. 

“We’re really trying to think through more of the continuum of support, and this is where we came up with The 800 Initiative,” said Andre Fowles, president of Start Co. “Through our work with Propel, we saw other challenges.”

The goal of The 800 Initiative is to grow the revenue of 800 local minority-owned firms by $50 million over the next five years.

Fowlkes pointed out that only two percent of Memphis' 39,800 African-American owned businesses have paid employees.

Those concentrated efforts include doubling the revenue of 500 minority-owned firms with employees and increasing the revenue of 200 minority-owned businesses without paid employees by $100,000. 

Through collaboration with Epicenter's executives-in-residence program, companies that have completed the Propel accelerator will be able to work with later-stage business leaders after Propel's programming wraps.

“It’s about surrounding more resources around more minority firms,” said Fowlkes of The 800 Initiative.

Another partner of The 800 Initiative is Christian Brothers University, which later this year will offer courses like Entrepreneurship 101, Organizational Leadership, Business Law and Marketing, as well as tuition assistance to budding entrepreneurs.

“Christian Brothers graduate students will be able to intern within those minority-owned businesses doing things like marketing and accounting and that will be free of charge to those businesses,” said Massey. “Then our initiative will pay those students an hourly wage to compensate for their services.”

Over the first two years of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's tenure, the City has grown its share of spending with minority- and women-owned businesses by 98 percent, increasing from 11.9 percent of its contracting dollars in 2014 to 2015 to 23.6 percent in 2017 to 2018, according to data released July 25.

“To truly boost our economy and realize our vision of a more prosperous and equitable third century, we must do everything we can to empower locally-owned, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses,” said Strickland in a statement. “Improving our economy like this will have a long-term positive impact on our challenges, such as crime and poverty. Our work continues, but the results to date speak for themselves.”

Funding for The 800 Initiative includes $1 million from FedEx over four years that will go to a loan fund, and the City of Memphis and Shelby County government each have committed $500,000 for the first year. Fowlkes is hoping to re-up each year with the city and county.

“One of our priorities is looking at the system as a whole and how we can break down barriers and how we can relieve some of the burden of business in general for those that have a historical disadvantage or those that experience systemic racism and discrimination,” said Massey.

Cash Saver steps up to replace shuttered Kroger in South Memphis

A new South Memphis redevelopment project at the Southgate Shopping Center is expected to improve access to healthy food options in the area, remove blight, and improve the quality of life of the neighborhood. Anchoring the reworked site, entrepreneur Rick James and Castle Retail Group are preparing to open a 31,000-square-foot Cash Saver grocery store in early August. 

When Kroger closed the South Memphis grocery at 1977 South Third Street more than six months ago, residents were left with fewer healthy food options. Without a grocery store, the area became a food desert.

“The Southgate Shopping Center is a critical piece in this highly traveled commercial corridor,” said John Lawrence, senior economic development specialist for the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County.

“Southgate was once considered the town center for the neighborhood. With more than 55,000 people living within a three-mile radius and median household incomes less than $35,000, it was imperative that the area have healthy, fresh, and affordable food options," he added. 

Project developer Belz Enterprises approached EDGE about getting a Community Builder PILOT for the project located at 1977 South Third Street. Belz received a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive for the project. 

“As we looked at the project, we started asking the question, ‘As important as this site is to the city and keeping nutritional food options available to this neighborhood, what other opportunities are there in terms of economic funding to get the store up and running?’,” said Rick James, owner of Castle Retail Group, which operates four independent Cash Saver Cost-Plus Food Outlets in Memphis.

James recently received a $100,000 Inner City Economic Development loan from EDGE to finance the purchase of new equipment for the store. James encouraged the landlord to secure some of the equipment in the store.through an agreement with Kroger.

“Most of the time when a national retailer leaves an inner city site, it’s never the same thing again. It ends up being carved up into different retail or it becomes a different type of store,” said James. “In my experience, if Kroger had pulled all of the equipment out of the store and auctioned it off, it would never be a grocery store again. No grocer would go back into that site and equip it.”

He cites the former Kroger store on American Way Boulevard, which closed five years ago and still sits empty.

“This is not a limited assortment store. We have every national brand you would see in any other retailer,” said James, who claims Cash Saver is the lowest priced supermarket in Memphis. “We pride ourselves on our meat department. We still use skilled journeyman meat cutters in our meat department. We buy all US No. 1 graded produce. The new store will have a deli bakery in it, and it’ll have 30,000 SKU’s of product.”

James became involved with the project because Belz is the landlord for his Cash Saver location in Whitehaven. The new $6.8 million redevelopment plan includes the Cash Saver, two junior retail anchors, and five small retail shops. Currently, about 40 percent of the surrounding retail center is unoccupied.

Renovations on the grocery store are underway now, and James hopes to open in early August.

The first Cash Saver in the U.S. originally opened as a Montesi’s at 1620 Madison Avenue in Midtown in 1960. By the 1990s, it was a Piggly Wiggly, and in 2004 James and his wife bought the store. In 2011, they converted it to a 70,000-square-foot Cash Saver.

“It’s quite a store,” said James. “It was the first one under the concept that we opened, and now there are probably close to 100 Cash Savers operating in the U.S. And nearly every one of those independent operators have come to Memphis to tour the store in Midtown.”

With the new store in South Memphis, Castle Retail Group will own four Cash Saver locations in the Memphis area.

Two blighted Downtown properties to get lively makeovers

A local developer and an out-of-town investor are launching two separate multimillion projects Downtown.
Tom Intrator of 18 S Main Mem, LLC plans a newly renovated mixed-use retail and office building in the South Main Arts District and Nick Patel of TCH Memphis, LLC plans ground-up construction of a new boutique hotel at the east end of Beale Street.

Recently, both developers received PILOT [Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Tax] approvals from the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Center City Revenue Finance Corporation.

New York-based Intrator, who is financing the $4.7 million project, plans to tear down part of the building at 18 South Main at the east side of the Main Street Mall to make way for a renovated 23,500-square-foot structure with 6,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the ground floor, shared creative office space on the upper floors and a potential yoga studio and speakeasy in the basement. 

“I would expect that in the coming months we’ll be able to start demo, and the project I would hope would be fully completed within a couple of years,” said Intrator.

Local architecture firm designshop created the floor plans for the new project. Given that the building was last renovated in the 1970s, the initial phase of the construction will involve rehabilitation of the façade and structure.

Intrator began investing in the Memphis market six years ago. Through affiliated entities, he now owns seven multifamily properties with 1,630 total units in Memphis, mostly in East Memphis in Midtown, as well as other holdings outside of Memphis. He also controls an affiliated property management company that manages his Memphis holdings. Outside of Memphis, he owns approximately 2,000 additional multifamily units.

“This new project is the first mixed-use Downtown that we’re doing. After spending more and more time Downtown over the past several years, I started looking at doing some redevelopment,” said Intrator. “We have several more properties which we are working on Downtown, and we’ll announce more about them after [the deals] close.”

The Inn at Beale Street, at 380 Beale Street, is planned to be a five-story boutique hotel with 120 rooms. This $16 million project will also feature 2,000 to 4,000 square feet of retail space as well as an indoor pool, fitness center, business center, community outdoor fire pit and rooftop patio.

“I’ve always thought there was a need to liven up that area of Beale Street,” said Patel, who owns and operates six hotels near the Knoxville area. “That’s what brought me here, and I’m glad and excited to see it developing out nicely.”

The dilapidated property, which is expected to bring some commercial vibrancy to the east end of Beale Street, has sat dormant for roughly five years and had been the Crave Night Club before then.

“That’s a horrible property that should’ve been razed years ago,” according to CCRFC board member Jim Crone. “There’s never been anything good that’s come out of that location. The only way it has a chance is with what [Patel] is doing. It will be a great anchor down there. It will draw more to the east end and will help the east end clubs.”

Patel purchased the site for approximately $1.5 million. North Carolina-based Overcash-Demmit Architecture designed the floor plans, and a local general contractor will be chosen at a later date.

The upscale branded hotel will target corporate travelers, groups, tourist and weekend visitors of Beale Street, and those attending FedEx Forum and AutoZone Park.

Patel hopes to begin construction in less than a year, with an anticipated opening roughly 12 to 16 months after; he plans on hiring a staff of 40 people for the hotel’s opening.

Patel's company TCH is growing its Memphis footprint, recently buying 195 Union Avenue from Greyhound and redeveloping the property into a Hilton Garden Inn with Vision Hotel Group. Additionally, the LLC purchased 235 Union Avenue, where Patel is exploring options for that site as a parking garage.

Community LIFT grants lead to grassroots neighborhood development

Community LIFT has opened the application for its 2018 of micro-grants as part of its Empowerment Fund, which supports residents seeking to improve their community. 

The fund, launched in 2017, is designed to provide financial assistance to grassroots leaders and organizations for community work that improves the quality of life in Memphis’ under-resourced neighborhoods and to support the people and organizations that are already working to improve their neighborhoods and revitalize their communities.

Success stories from last year’s pool of Empowerment Fund grant recipients include the Binghampton International Festival.

“The Empowerment Fund grant really helped to make the festival possible,” said Nefertiti Orrin, grants director for Community LIFT. “They were able to pay artists who were part of that wonderful day. They were able to get necessities like port-a-potties and festival security. Without our support, they would not have been able to provide those crucial things.”

Festival organizers cited being able to work with neighbors on planning as the most rewarding aspect.

“In the long term, it was really more about building that community cohesiveness,” said Orrin. “As the festival was an international festival, they were able to show support for immigrants in the community and celebrate the different cultures that are represented in the neighborhood.”

The South Memphis Soccer Club is another project that was brought to life last year, transforming an underused space in the South City community into a useable gathering area for families.

Related: "South Memphis rugby and soccer teams promote community growth, youth opportunities and land reuse"

“They created recreational and fellowship opportunities and provided opportunities for non-residents to have a positive experience in South Memphis,” said Orrin.

Other projects awarded micro-grants last year include neighborhood gardening projects, community clean-ups, and neighborhood preservation efforts.

Residents, business and property owners, and neighborhood associations can apply for grants of up to $2,500 to fund community-supported projects that promote community cohesion, improve the physical spaces in the neighborhood, cultivate financial stability, and/or assist neighborhood stakeholders in collaborative action.

“In addition to direct rewards, we will also provide technical assistance training to help support the applicants with building capacity in particular areas like managing a grant as well as advocacy and engagement,” according to Orrin.

Empowerment fund Information sessions will take place on July 2 at 10:30 a.m. at 1350 Concourse Avenue, Suite 434; July 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library and on July 9 at 10:30 a.m. at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

Applications will be accepted until July 27.

Neighborhood Christian Centers to expand with Collierville location

Neighborhood Christian Centers will open its 8th area location later this summer. Last year, the nonprofit service provider assisted 53,000 people in need across Shelby County.

The new center will target southeast Shelby County as it will be housed in St. Patrick Presbyterian Church on New Byhalia Road in Collierville. 

“Then we’ll be looking to see if we can find a partner to help us to find free space to open up,” said Ephie Johnson, Neighborhood Christian Centers president and CEO.

Johnson’s mother, Dr. JoeAnn Ballard, was chosen to lead Neighborhood Christian Centers at its inception in 1978. In addition to raising her own four children, Ballard and her husband, Monroe, were foster parents to 75 children, most of whom lived with the family for at least one year. To make room for so many children, they converted their two-bedroom home into a nine-bedroom home while working various jobs to cover the expenses.

Related: "Neighborhood Christian Center provides sustenance for Memphis' disadvantaged neighborhoods"

Since its founding, the nonprofit has helped guide countless Memphians toward stability and sustainability through programs like LoveBuilders, Women Empowered to Succeed, Early Childhood and Youth Empowered to Succeed.

The new Collierville location will join the nonprofit’s seven current locations, including Uptown/North Memphis, Binghampton, Orange Mound and Frayser.

“We have a lot of poverty moving toward or being repositioned in Hickory Hill, Cordova, and Fayette County. The poor are asking for services from the people in Collierville,” said Johnson.

“The issues are not necessarily that Collierville has poverty, it’s that people who are poor that are closer to that side of the city are accessing those people for help, and they’re not positioned for it or don’t have the relationships we’ve had with those people who have moved out of our care.”

The Orange Mound location is an all female facility. “We feed our women who graduate from our work-life programs through our My Cup of Tea social enterprise partnership,” said Johnson.

“Overall, we provide compassionate services and then empowerment programs where we do training for adults and youth in academics, reading comprehension, job readiness, financial literacy, conflict resolution–all of the different areas that most of those that we serve need most.”

She hopes to open the new location by August or September.

Hopdoddy opening second Memphis location

Just a couple of months after entering the Memphis market in Midtown at Overton Square, Hopdoddy Burger Bar is preparing a new East Memphis location with ground-up construction at the site of a former Sears Automotive Center. The property and the adjoining Sears at the corner of Poplar and Perkins Road were demolished in 2017 to make way for a Nordstrom Rack-anchored retail development. 

Hopdoddy’s menu features a variety of the fresh, all-natural proteins like Angus beef, Akaushi beef, chicken and sushi-grade tuna served on baked-from-scratch buns. The restaurant also touts hand-cut Kennebec fries, farm fresh salads, and handcrafted milkshakes, as well as local craft beers and a full bar with regional spirits, house-made liqueurs and freshly squeezed juices.

High Ground met with Hopdoddy Brand Manager Erin Fohn to learn about the upcoming expansion.

High Ground News: What makes the location in East Memphis attractive for Hopdoddy?
Fohn: We asked our guests where we should go next and we listened. Poplar and Perkins looks like a lively place to be, and we look forward to sharing our burgers and sips with the community.

HGN: Do you have details about the actual construction? Is there a local general contractor handling the work?
Fohn: We’re looking forward to opening very soon. We’ve been working with a few local sub-contractors such as MTE Contracting, and our team has been very pleased with their hard work.

HGN: Are there plans yet for more locations around the area?
Not yet, but we’d love to find another location.

HGN: Can you comment on the success of the Midtown location?
Fohn: We opened the Overton Square location on April 2 and have been overwhelmed by the love and support from the community and neighborhood. We’re happy that everyone loves craft beers and burgers as much as we do!

HGN: What makes the Hopdoddy concept successful, and what are some of your most popular items?
Fohn: Hopdoddy Burger Bar always welcomes guests with positive energy and a lively atmosphere. The concept is simple – Hopdoddy provides made-from-scratch burgers that are sourced from the best ingredients available and put between two freshly baked buns. Plus, all meats are ground in-house daily.

The most popular items on the menu include the Primetime Burger made with an American grass-fed Kobe beef patty, brie, arugula, caramelized onions, truffle aioli and HD steak sauce, the Goodnight Burger which donates $1 to the Soulsville Foundation/STAX Academy, and, of course, The Classic.

HGN: How many Hopdoddy locations are there and how many more are currently planned?
Fohn: There are 24 Hopdoddy locations on both sides of the Mississippi and four more locations in the works this year.

Edge Motor Museum rolling into 645 Marshall Avenue later this year

A new automobile museum highlighting the Edge District’s rich automotive history is on the way to 645 Marshall Avenue. The building, which was constructed in 1925, once featured a car showroom and assembly shop.

The building was once part of “Auto Row," a strip that was home to several car dealerships and maintenance shops dating back to the 1920s.

“With convenient rail access, many of the dealerships had showrooms in the front and factories in the back,” said developer Richard Vining. “645 Marshall Avenue was one of these buildings. Home to Cherokee Motors, vehicles assembled in the back of 645 Marshall Avenue were proudly displayed up front for all who walked or rode by to see.”

“Our plan [with The Edge Motor Museum] is to bring that look and feel back to the building while maintaining its original character and enhancing the neighborhood as a whole," he added. 

Vining plans to feature at the museum an initial offering of vehicles on loan and valued at $1 million. The museum will be located approximately 600 feet west of Sun Studio, and Vining hopes the project will help further connect the Medical District to the Downtown core.

“The exhibits contained within the Edge Motor Museum are not only expected to attract visitors on their own, but also serve as a complementary attraction for the visitors of Sun Studio, many of whom are already interested in 1950s and '70s culture,” he said. 

The museum is currently awaiting its nonprofit 501c3 federal approval, which is expected in the next month.

Alongside Montgomery Martin Contractors, C Foster Construction is handling the funds granted by the Downtown Memphis Commission for exterior improvements. These improvements will include the patch and repair of the glazed exterior tile, new storefront glass windows and doors, lighting, new roll-down door and a new parking lot. Recently, the DMC's Center City Development Corp. provided a grant of $60,000 for those exterior improvements.

Construction is underway, and the entire project is expected to take roughly four months to complete.

Mixed-use housing development seeks to attract a grocery store to Downtown

Developer Hamilton & Holliman LLC is finalizing designs for its first ground-up, mixed-use housing development. 

The proposed $8 million project at 27 W. Carolina Street will consist of a six-story structure with 57 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space. The developers, Dustin Hamilton and Brock Holliman, bought the land two years ago.

“I was wanting to do the project then, but I was concerned that Loflin Yard was too loud because of all the loud music,” said Hamilton. “But that music issue is resolved, so now we can go forward with it. It’s a good place for development. Apartment demand is really high there, the rents are really good.”

For the ground floor retail, Hamilton hopes to target essential services like a bank, grocery store or dry cleaner.

“I think having retail on the ground floor is really useful, and it’s sorely needed down there,” said Hamilton. “There are a lot of apartments within walking distance, and there is not any essential services retail at all down there.”

Despite the need, banks are hesitant about the market and are requiring tenants to be pre-leased, according to Hamilton.

“Their fear of retail is hurting development,” said Hamilton.

The project, which was approved for a 15-year PILOT from the Downtown Memphis Commission last month, will also feature 30 underground parking spaces along with 30 surface parking spots.

The 1.5-acre parcel currently has a warehouse on the back side, and the developers will decide if they want to convert it to apartments or demolish it and build new units in a second phase of the project.

Fleming Architects is finishing up the floor plans, and Patton & Taylor will be handling construction.

Prior to this project, Hamilton and Holliman developed the Carolina Warehouse Lofts, consisting of ten townhouses at 27 Carolina Avenue. Additionally, they completed a 55-home subdivision in Olive Branch.

The LLC also owns a four-acre parcel nearby at Riverside Drive and Carolina, and Hamilton expects to develop a much larger mixed-use project there in the next couple of years if the market holds out.

Lamar Avenue repair and expansion on the way

The Lamar Avenue corridor, one of the region’s busiest thoroughfares, will finally move forward on a much-needed overhaul thanks to a $71.2 million U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant to be used for roadway repairs and capacity upgrades. Lamar Avenue will be widened from four lanes to six lanes.

“This has been the No. 1 logistics driver for a long time and the No. 1 priority for the Chamber as far as improvements for our industries and our companies here,” said Greater Memphis Chamber president and CEO Phil Trenary.

“If nothing else, we want the entire community to understand that this is the kind of good thing that happens when we all pull together,” said Trenary. “Both mayors said ‘What can we do?’, the business community engaged, throughout the whole process no one said ‘no.’ It was the unified effort that made the difference.”

Trenary explained the regional effort was supported by Arkansas, Mississippi and across the state of Tennessee, and it transcended administrations from Obama to Trump.

The effort to secure the funding gained traction in 2016 when federal, state and local partners came together, including the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Honorable Secretary Chao, Governor Bill Haslam, members of the regional congressional delegation, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Mayors Jim Strickland and Mark H. Luttrell, Jr., the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization , and other political leaders and partner agencies.

“That could not have happened had we not had in my opinion that effort starting in 2016,” he said. “And we probably would not have been shaping it in 2016 if it had not been a priority for almost ten years.”

The state has already invested in acquiring the right of way and has committed to funding the balance of the project, which will include new interchanges at Winchester Road, East Shelby Drive and East Holmes Road.

“When you consider we have 71,000 people employed in the area at more than 1,300 companies, this is a very big deal,” said Trenary.

The Lamar corridor runs from the Tennessee-Mississippi state line to Interstate-240, linking interstate highways, airports, maritime ports and rail and connecting Memphis and Shelby County to Birmingham, Atlanta and other major metropolitan cities in the Southeast.

“We’ve had a lot of companies complain about damaged goods because of the condition of the roads there,” said Trenary.

The $300 million BNSF intermodal facility on Lamar has been operating at just 70 percent of capacity, with the main limiting factor being the poor road conditions.

“The cost of transportation continues to go up, and our companies there are paying a price to be in Memphis because of the conditions on Lamar,” said Trenary. “We’ve got to upgrade it in order to be competitive in keeping the companies we have and to attract new companies.”

Wolf River Conservancy's greenway efforts garner state recognition

Based on its work on the Wolf River Greenway Trail and protection of lands related to the Memphis aquifer and clean water supply, the Wolf River Conservancy recently garnered state recognition.

The Memphis-based nonprofit took home the award for Conservation Organization of the Year at the Tennessee Wildlife Federation's 53rd annual Conservation Achievement Awards, held in Nashville.

“We appreciate the fact that the Tennessee Wildlife Federation recognized the work that we do and the high standards we have,” said Keith Cole, Wolf River Conservancy executive director.

The Wolf River Conservancy focuses mostly on West Tennessee. To date, the WRC has protected more than 16,000 acres in the Wolf River watershed, equaling about $24 million invested by WRC board members.

“The lands primarily are protected for protecting our clean drinking water,” explained Cole. “The Wolf River Conservancy has been protecting the aquifer since 1985, and we do that protecting the recharge areas like the wetlands and floodplains [mostly in undeveloped Fayette County].”

The WRC is leading the buildout of the Wolf River Greenway Trail through the city of Memphis. Upon completion, the 12-foot-wide paved walking and biking trail will total 25 miles.

“In building the trail, we’re also conserving land, which protects our water,” said Cole.

Last fall, the greenway opened on the north end of Mud Island, converting an 80-acre piece of land that was formerly a dumping site into a park-like setting.

Two sections in Raleigh and Frayser are almost complete, and work is underway on a 1.3-mile section through East Memphis and Midtown.

Through the public/private partnership between the WRC, the City of Memphis, and Shelby County, each entity will handle certain portions of the $60 million project.

Once it is completed, an estimated 238,000 people (roughly 25 percent of the Memphis population) will have access the trail.

“There are a lot of great green initiatives going on in Memphis and Shelby County,” said Cole. “Whether it’s the Big River Crossing, the new Mississippi River parks partnership, our project, the Shelby Farms Park and the Greenline – we’re connecting all of those green initiatives together. The most important aspect of all of these projects is connecting them.”

Two-floor Curry N Jerk restaurant to open Downtown

The Carribean collides with Latin America at Curry N Jerk, a new restaurant opening at 126 Monroe Avenue. 

The restaurant, which opens in mid-June, is owned by Arturo Azcarate. He said the venture honors his mother, Sharon Rose Bynoe, who passed away eight years ago and was a professional cook. 

“The first job I ever had was working for my mom at a Marine base in California, and she was able to introduce our food to the military guys. They loved the Panamanian dishes that she would do sometimes special,” said Azcarate. “I always wanted to give my mom her own restaurant because I believe in our food and how other people have enjoyed eating it when they’ve come to our home.”

Secret family recipes on the menu include curry and jerk chicken, shrimp, salmon and ribs, along with Panamanian-style potato salad, cole slaw, and cabbage and a homemade habanero pepper sauce.

“We’re going to do a combination of the Caribbean that people are used to, and we’re also adding the Latin side of it, which is the Panamanian-style food, and introducing Memphis to that,” said Azcarate.

The 4,500-square-foot building has sat empty for the past eight years after formerly being Lolo’s restaurant. Extensive renovation work included replacing the carpet with hardwood floors, repainting the whole building, and installing new HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems.

“The owners of the building have been a big part of making this dream come true,” said Azcarate. “They’ve been very supportive of the vision I have to enhance their building.”

He is also quick to point that without the help and support from his four sisters – Yvette, Corrine, Adeletha, and Mitchell – none of it would have been possible.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my sisters, who know the recipes and how our dishes should be made,” he said. “Three of them have moved to the Memphis area in the past three months, and one comes here regularly from Dallas. It’s great to have them here to help our chefs take it to the next level.”

He hopes the restaurant adds to the growing diversity of the area’s restaurant scene.

Guests will be able to enjoy live music, drinks and appetizer downstairs in the 507 Room lounge. The restaurant occupies the first floor, and the second and third floors of the building could be built out in the future into apartments or condos.

Plans over the next three years could include opening another Curry N Jerk in the Memphis area, with Arlington and Collierville near the top of Azcarate’s sights at the moment.

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