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Artists to open new co-work space in Edge District


A warehouse across from the former Wonder Bread factory will be repurposed into a cooperative workspace for artists, continuing the Edge District's piecemeal redevelopment. 

Dubbed Wonder Cowork Create, or Wonder CC, the space at 340 Monroe Avenue will offer programming and resources to Memphis' creative class. 

Partners Eric Clausen, Cat Peña and Nick Peña will soon begin renovations on a 3,000-square foot warehouse space with plans for a fall launch. 

“Over the past few years, it seems like there’s always something new opening up here in the Edge District,” said Clausen, who has maintained a studio at nearby Marshall Art for the past three years.


“It’s been great to see those changes happen. The district is a little funky and a little weird, and I think it definitely a place that has its own voice in Memphis. There’s not going to be a cookie-cutter revitalization in the Edge.”

Clausen and Cat Peña had previously discussed starting some sort of artist guild or creative workers’ union in the region.

“Our thought was to make a creative co-work space so it’s not just limited to artists but to creatives broadly,” said Clausen. “It’s not just a place to work. The members also get time on the calendar to do programming.”

The artists are hoping to create a dedicated place that is shaped by the needs of the members and not by a greater arts organization.

While amenities are still being formalized, the partners will offer membership tiers that range from private offices to day passes. Members will be able to use the space as a canvas for art exhibitions, performances and programs. Lockers, electronic key access and standard office fare — coffee, WiFi, printing services — will be offered. 

“The space will provide ways to work together in ways that you aren’t really encouraged to do outside of traditional educational institutions,” said Cat Peña.



“Once you get out of school, you have to really push and work hard to make your community, and depending if you are an introvert or extrovert it can be harder or easier for you.”

The goal is to create more of an incubator space for people who are in between working at home and having their own studio, workspace or budding business. Wonder CC is a two-year pilot, and the partners will decide at that point if Memphis would benefit from a long-term offering.

The three partners are all artists with connections to Christian Brothers University. Cat Peña is a public artist, art consultant and the creator and founder of The Collaboratory, a creative platform for public art projects. She is also director of the Beverly & Sam Ross Gallery at CBU.

Clausen is an illustrator who works with murals, animation and much more, and he is an adjunct professor at CBU. Nick Peña paints, does mixed media installations and is a full-time professor at CBU.

As an artist and educator, Peña prepares seniors for their BFA and helps them imagine what the possibilities are with a degree in studio arts or applied arts.

“What’s really important about a sector of this for me is to help the transition for students graduating and going to look for their first jobs or starting their own business,” he said. “This space will give them a place to land for a couple of years, build their confidence and get to know people.”

“The great thing about this space is that it will be self-run by members,” said Clausen, who just completed an artist residency at Crosstown Arts. “So, that way we don’t need to have a front desk person all the time.”

The building owner, Mike Todd, is hoping the artists can help to activate the building and the neighborhood. Originally the building had been used for automotive purposes and has had a number of other uses over the years, including as a set design space.

Renovations will include installing movable walls and table and desks on casters to create a flexible workspace.

Wonder CC backs up into Floyd Alley with a balcony overlooking the space.

“The Memphis Medical District Collaborative is trying to activate this alleyway that ends at Redbird Stadium and runs to Danny Thomas Boulevard into a hidden pedestrian byway,” said Cat Peña. “We’re really excited to think of creative programming outside of Wonder CC and into Floyd Alley.”

Related: "Between the Lines II: Turning Memphis' alleys into hidden destinations"

Already, the business has commitments from one organization and two small creative firms that would like to utilize some space in the building.

Thanks to a recent pre-development grant from the MMDC, Wonder CC is conducting several focus groups at the building soon to meet potential new members and find out exactly what they might be looking for before renovations start on the space. The next meetings are slated for May 31, June 4 and June 10.

“The Edge District has always had some of the most experimental art spaces in Memphis since the 1980s, and we would like to continue that lineage while also making sure that the development that comes through doesn’t lose sight or its place and its history,” Cat Peña said.
 


Memphis Public Libraries use Readbox to build awareness

A  guerilla marketing campaign popping up around town is building awareness of Memphis Public Libraries' changing role in the community and its growing range of free programs. 

To promote the library’s services, MPL has launched a Readbox structure which is designed to mimic a Redbox movie rental station. Designed by DCA, the Readbox will move to different locations around Memphis. 

“Libraries have changed so much that we needed a really bold strategy to communicate the value of something that was previously so overwhelming that is was hard for us to explain,” said Kennon McCloy, Memphis Public Libraries executive director. “The Readbox is a conversation starter and a way for us to be more playful.”

In addition to books, the MPL system offers more than 6,000 programs that cover topics including economic development, job and career prep, STEAM activities, robotics, gaming, coding, music recording, genealogy, legal services, personal finance and much more. 

DiscoverREAD at Crenshaw Library from High Ground News on Vimeo.


“There’s something for everyone. It’s not a shushing library anymore,” said McCloy. “We’re doing a lot of things that are really surprising and fun, and we now have double the program attendance that we had ten years ago. It’s really about trying to connect with people where they are and to eliminate barriers to access.”

 

More than 100,000 people attend the programs each year, and a newly designed website is helping them to more easily find the programming they seek.

So far, the Readbox, which was built by local craftsman and carpenter Caleb Sweazy, has appeared at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, Crosstown Concourse, and in front of a Walgreens on Getwell Road next to an actual Redbox. It will continue to show up in surprising locations around town in the future.

“Readbox is for us a creative way that we’re attempting to get people’s interest so we can use it to share information about the library,” said DCA Principal Doug Carpenter. “It has been wildly popular," he added.

A photo posted on MPL's Facebook has now reached more than 260,000 people.

“The Readbox is representative of the Memphis Public Libraries,” said Carpenter. “They have more than books. They have movies, librarians with expertise, free Wi-Fi, job counseling, and a wealth of resources. And there are 18 different locations.”

The campaign is helping to get the word out about a variety of exciting things happening with the library system.

Related: "Memphis Public Libraries 'start here' by upgrading neighborhood branches"
 

“The goal is to spark a passion for lifelong learning,” said McCloy. “A lot of people don’t have the best experience in school, and we can connect with people in ways that traditional institutions cannot. The library is really the jumping off point for anything you could ever dream of or things you have never even considered would be possible.”

MPL’s Discover READ early childhood literacy centers focus on touching, talking, reading, playing and singing for kids from infancy to age five.

“We’re busy raising money privately through the Memphis Library Foundation for more Discover READ centers,” said McCloy. “We have the money for nine right now.”

While digital e-books are rapidly gaining popularity in recent years (the library has grown its number of available titles to more than 200,000), traditional books are still doing quite well.

“We have more than two million hardback or paperback items,” said McCloy.

More exciting things are on the horizon for MPL. Construction will get underway soon on a new 15,000-square-foot library in Raleigh at the site of the former Raleigh Springs Mall. It should be open by next summer and will feature the library system’s only Family Lab. Plans are also underway to replace Frayser's library branch.

“We’re really focused on North and South Memphis,” said McCloy. “There’s just a whole lot of intentionality around making sure that this is a world-class facility and represents the future of libraries.”


New trampoline park proposed for Whitehaven

Family entertainment could be on the way to Whitehaven, as developer JD USA Shopping Center plans a new offering at the Whitehaven Landing retail center at 1232 East Shelby Drive at the south end of Southbrook Mall.

The strip, which has sat vacant for years, will be anchored by Altitude Trampoline Park. When the developers bought the 74,000-square-foot building ten years ago, they planned to rent it to a big-box retailer but ran up against the neighborhood's marketability.

“Whitehaven is a difficult neighborhood, especially because a lot of big-box retailers, unfortunately, don’t want to lease out space in Whitehaven,” said the project’s Managing Director Andrew Kim, whose parents own the building.

Over the past decade, the building has had tenants from time to time, but it has sat empty for a number of years.

“We wanted to find a suitable use for the building before it became an urban blight issue in the next year or so,” said Kim. “I’ve had a lot of heartache in my life because of this building. It’s been a big question mark for my family for a long time.”

The determine the best use for the property, the Kim family consulted with community members and leaders to find out what the community needed most.

“This is a huge demographic for family entertainment, and no one’s coming forward to do a project of this magnitude,” said Kim, who previously co-founded and served as director of finance for Indy Coffee Co. in San Antonio.

Related: "Flight of the Red Lobster: Whitehaven retail adapts to Mississippi migration"
 

Altitude Trampoline Park will be the anchor tenant, occupying 37,000 square feet, and plans call for 15,000 square feet of additional retail space along with 17,000 square feet of flex space. The Kims signed a franchise agreement with Altitude, which has more than 50 locations across the country and internationally. This will be the first location in Tennessee.

“We feel very confident that their business model could really impact the community,” said Kim. “There’s a growing popularity right now in entertainment-based projects.”

Development costs for Whitehaven Landing are expected to top $2.5 million, and the project will create more than 50 new jobs.

Construction will likely get underway by summer, and Kim hopes to have the trampoline park and the first 3,000 square feet of frontage retail space open by the end of the year, possibly by September if all goes well.


Soundways earns $100k investment and leads Memphis in the 'rise of the rest'

Facing a packed audience at Clayborn Temple, Memphis-based startup Soundways received the ultimate vote of confidence from Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and Chairman and CEO of Revolution, a D.C.-based venture capital fund.

Related: "As part of a national entrepreneurship tour, Memphis leads the rise of the rest"

 

As the winner of a $100,000 investment from Revolution, Soundways leads what Case calls the third wave of entrepreneurship. This wave favors the startup ecosystems that lie inside the coasts and are often neglected by Silicon Valley backers. Case and other Revolution partners are supporting emerging ecosystems on the Rise of the Rest bus tour, which brings top-shelf investment to lesser-known cities. The tour stopped in Memphis on May 8 for a pitch competition.

 

Last year, 75 percent of the nation's venture capital was invested in only three states: Massachusetts, California and New York, Case said in a panel discussion preceding the pitch competition. This limited investment approach keeps unheard voices — and potentially scalable businesses and necessary solutions — out of the larger startup conversation. High-growth companies are able to start and scale anywhere, and can create jobs in the communities that need it most, Case added.

 

"If we want to have a more inclusive startup economy, we have to back startups in all places ... Led by all people," Case said, pointing out that Memphis could be a model for its city-wide emphasis on fostering diversity with startup programs such as EPIcenter and accelerators for women-owned and minority-owned businesses led by Start Co.

 

Case visited Memphis with a cadre of leaders of entrepreneurship, including John Hope Bryant, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, a financial literacy nonprofit with several branches in Memphis; and J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy and managing partner of Revolution.

 

“How many Steve Jobs have we never met that are in these neighborhoods?” Bryant said of emerging communities like Memphis.

 

Soundways, which provides audio software solutions, was one of eight Memphis startups participating in the Memphis pitch competition. MedHaul, B-G Innovative Safe Systems, Sweetbio, HelloHome, Workbay, Tradelanes and DEV/CON also participated.

Related: "Memphis-based tech company takes hackers to court"

 

Case pointed out that Memphis, the city where Holiday Inn and FedEx were founded, often falls back on a narrative of entrepreneurship. But that narrative is aging as these businesses were founded nearly 40 years ago. The next wave of innovators is already present in Memphis. They just need the right resources and a dose of confidence.

"I think there's been enormous progress [in Memphis] in the last three or four years, but there's still a lot of work to do. It's important to drive more collaboration and partner startups with big companies," Case advised.

 

Leslie Smith, president of EPIcenter, said that Revolution’s investment in Memphis is “a huge verification and validation” of Memphis’ work.

 

“I do think it means we're investable. I think it means that we've built the quality of our pipeline and portfolio to a level where funders of national prominence are interested. I don’t think that's always been the case,” she said.


Innovative lighting design marks new downtown boutique hotel renovation

Work is underway Downtown at the corner of Court Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard on the renovation of a former Econo Lodge that closed in November into a Hotel Indigo. The project recently received an $80,000 exterior improvement grant and design approval from the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC).

The building was built in 1963 as a Holiday Inn and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The upper three floors of the building will include 118 guest rooms, with six floors of parking below as well as ground floor and basement commercial space.

“Hotel Indigo has been looking at coming to Memphis for some time, and the developer was really looking to do something unique,” said Brett Ragsdale, principal with brg3s architects. “Every Hotel Indigo is actually designed for its neighborhood, so we looked at a six-block radius and there’s an integral radio theme. So we’re designing around radio and its impact on Memphis in the 1940s and 1950s.”

One of the reasons the DMC is strongly supporting the project is the commission’s push to improve lighting in the main Downtown corridors. Extensive exterior lighting highlights the new design, which also includes a new restaurant/bar and lobby area, and the existing historic concrete stanchions will be preserved and painted gold.

“We designed the lighting to mimic the stanchions and make it flow from the ground floor up through the guest floors like it’s one building,” said Ragsdale.

To enhance the pedestrian experience near the new hotel, the previous hotel’s vehicular entry point on B.B. King Boulevard is being converted into an outdoor terrace, and a new entry point is going in on Court Avenue.

The project began with selective demolition and abatement in January. Construction started on the upper floors in March, and project completion is expected by August. Atlanta-based Southcore is the general contractor.

Total construction costs will top $6 million, and once furniture, fixtures and equipment and restaurant opening costs are added the project will approach $10 million.


UTHSC opens $40M patient simulator center

After roughly three years under construction, the new $39.7 million Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will open its doors on May 11 for its grand opening.

The three-story, 45,000-square-foot building at 26 South Dunlap Street will be used for education, research, and professional development of enhanced clinical skills. This is accomplished using standardized patients, who are actors from the community trained to portray patients with specific conditions, virtual reality technology, and high-fidelity patient simulators, which are manikins costing between $15,000 to $220,000 each.

“There are very few stand-alone buildings that are dedicated to health care simulation in the country, so this is one of only a handful and the only one in Tennessee,” said CHIPS Executive Director Dr. Chad Epps.

The new center will allow students from UTHSC’s six colleges – Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Medicine, and Pharmacy – to train together in simulation settings to develop their skills in delivering team-based health care.

Each floor of the building was designed by architects brg3s to highlight a different aspect of simulation training. The project’s audio/video budget topped $4.5 million, with all of the rooms having multiple cameras, microphones, and taps on the phones.

“On the first floor, we have two large bed labs that have 12 beds each, designed to practice skills and procedures,” said Epps, who has been active in simulation education, research, assessment and center management for more than 10 years. “And we also have a room that’s dedicated to virtual simulation, with virtual high technology trainers where you can practice things like laproscopic surgeries or doing colonoscopies or robotic surgeries in a very realistic environment.”

The first floor also includes a simulated home environment, where students can practice delivering in-home patient care.

The second floor features a hospital-like acute care setting with patient rooms and a variety of manikins for simulating everything from surgery to labor and delivery, as well as classrooms and debriefing rooms.

The third floor is home to the standardized patient program, with 24 patient exam rooms (dubbed the Kaplan Center for Clinical Skills) and a simulated community pharmacy where students can learn compounding of drugs and pharmacy policies.
 


Pay-it-forward Overton Square restaurant feeds funds to the Mid-South Food Bank

New restaurateurs Edward Bogard and Preston Butts Jr., along with co-owner and former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, are prepping to open their first restaurant venture, BOGARD, by August in Overton Square at 2110 Madison Avenue.

At BOGARD, which stands for Buying One Gives Another Rare Dish, for every meal purchased another meal will be provided for a person in need through a strategic partnership with the Mid-South Food Bank.

“It’s an idea that I’ve been formalizing for the past four years,” said Bogard, founder and philanthropist behind SoGiv, a nonprofit shoe design company. The nonprofit donates 100 percent of its proceeds to more than 20 charitable foundations. “I had the vision just not all the right pieces four years ago.”

Two percent of all food sales will be donated to the food bank for providing meals, and 2 percent of all bar sales will go to providing clean drinking water to people through the food bank.

“A little bit of financial help goes a really long way with the food bank,” said Andrew Bell, communications manager with the Mid-South Food Bank. “We can generate three meals every time someone donates $1. Almost equally important to the financial contribution is the exposure for the food bank in the Overton Square area.”

The partnership is also a continuation of an alliance formed in 2014 between the food bank and SoGiv in which a special edition shoe raised funds for the Mid-South Food Bank. To date, more than 13,000 meals have been provided from the sales of the shoes, which are available primarily online at SoGiv.org.

“The idea for the restaurant was inspired by the success and the impact of the food bank shoe, and I wanted to be able to do something like that on a more consistent basis,” said Bogard. “In our first year at the new restaurant, we’re projecting to provide 100,000 meals based on 2 percent of net sales.”

The Last Burger on Earth also donates a portion of its French fry sales to the Mid-South Food Bank, which serves a 31-county region and distributes more than 2 million pounds of food each year. Bell is hoping that other area restaurants will follow this new trend.

“The Food Bank logo will be on the BOGARD menu, and people ordering will be able to see right there what we’re about. It’s critical exposure for us,” said Bell.

Construction on the 3,790-square-foot space, which was formerly Stanley BBQ, Schweinhaus and Paulette’s over the last number of years, will begin the next month.

“We have a really, really nice patio. We’re excited about it and are planning some fun things once we open,” said Bogard.

BOGARD’s upscale menu will feature contemporary southern-inspired dishes like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits, along with hand-crafted cocktails.

“You’re going to want to photograph the entrée before eating it,” said Bogard. “And the dining space itself will actually be Instagrammable.”

BOGARD has hired experienced restaurateurs Ed Cabagiao (Zaka Bowl, SOB) and Ben McLean (Catfish & Caviar, Belly Acres) as operating managers for the new business, which should be open by August.

The ownership group is already planning more restaurants.

“Just from the initial buzz and concept we have created here, we already have six cities interested in opening BOGARDs,” said Bogard. “Being a native Memphian, I wanted to open the first BOGARD here.”


MATA set to reopen downtown trolley system on April 30

With restoration of the first three trolley cars and necessary testing completed, the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is ready to re-launch the trolley service which has sat dormant for the past four years. A ribbon-cutting event will take place on April 30 at 547 N. Main Street.

“We’re very excited, and the community is very excited,” said MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld. “We’re anxious to put out for public consumption all of the efforts that we’ve gone through over the past couple of years — the craftsmanship that has been deployed, the engineering and documentation talents that have been utilized — to bring together all of the disciplines necessary to create a great trolley system for a great city.”

Initially, the Main Street trolley line will operate with trolley cars 234, 453, and 540, which cost between $800,000 and $1 million to fully restore.

“In some cases, we had 100-year-old cars that have been refurbished and given a new life of at least 25 years where the entire undercarriage of the vehicle has been redone, conduit systems have been rehung, fresh wiring throughout, and then once inside the cars the craftsman go to work,” said Rosenfeld.

“Basically we took apart the vehicles and remanufactured them all at one time,” he said.

One thing that slowed the trolleys' return was the considerable wood rot on some of the trolley cars.

“The good news is we’ve overcome those issues, and the public will be able to see the level of detail and love that’s been put into the vehicles, and I think they will respond accordingly,” said Rosenfeld.

Extensive testing on the cars, track, and power systems and the recertification of all employees has taken place over the past few months.

The first route to reopen will be the Main Street Trolley Line, which cost a total of $10 million (including the first six trolley car restorations) to update and runs from the William Hudson Transit Center (Main Street and A.W. Willis Avenue) to the Butler Station (Main Street and Butler Street).

From Sunday through Thursday, two trolley cars will run every 30 minutes, and on Fridays and Saturdays three cars will run every 20 minutes. Customers can ride for free until May 14, and all rides after then will cost $1.

The tentative operating schedule will continue until the refurbishments on trolley cars 455, 539 and 799, which contained much more rotted wood to be replaced, are completed next month.

Adding more trolley routes and additional restored cars will happen over the next couple years.

“As we get ready to bring the Riverfront line and the Madison line on, we’ll have to add more cars,” said Rosenfeld.

The Riverfront line is expected to reopen by the third or fourth quarter of 2019, and the Madison line should be ready by early 2020.


Subsidized apartments will house Memphians who are experiencing homelessness and mental illness

A severely blighted South Memphis apartment building at 1571 Kansas Street will be renovated over the next six months into permanent housing for adults who have experienced homelessness, mental illness, and/or substance abuse, as well as youth who are transitioning out of Tennessee's foster care system.

On April 13, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency presented nonprofit developer Case Management, Inc., with a $225,000 grant to renovate the building, which has sat dormant for many years. 

“As you look around this area, you see that there’s not a lot of construction or new things going on in this area of South Memphis,” said Case Management CEO Florence Hervery.

“So Case Management is proud to be a part of trying to revitalize this area as well as open up some housing opportunities for many of the people that we serve who are homeless or at risk of being homeless and certainly that mentally ill population that we live for.”

Case Management, which is funded by a grant from the State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, offers outpatient and wraparound services including drug and alcohol treatment programs for the homeless and mentally ill.

The new apartments in South Memphis will be subsidized housing for eight of their clients for as long as they need it. The organization hopes that the offering encourages clients to maintain their self-worth, dignity and independence.

“For those of us who work with this population, we understand that housing is one of the greatest barriers to their stability,” said Hervery. The people living in the new apartments will pay 30 percent of their overall income for rent and utilities.

Case Management, which operates several properties around Memphis, competed against other nonprofits across the state to earn the grant, which is funded from the Tennessee Housing Trust Fund.

“Imagine if you are a kid walking past this development every day. How are you going to feel about the neighborhood?” said Paul Young, City of Memphis director of the Division of Housing and Community Development. “It doesn’t instill pride when you see blight in our community.”

The grant money will cover the bulk of the renovation costs, which will include completely gutting the approximately 50-year-old building and then installing a new roof, central A/C and heat, plumbing and electrical systems as well as landscaping the property and putting in a gated entry.

The new floor plans will include eight one-bedroom, one-bathroom units.

“We’re hoping to start moving clients in by Christmas,” said Hervery.

Work will begin immediately, and the general contractor for the project is Healthcare Construction.


Explore Bike Share bicycle rental stations launching soon with more on the way in 2019

Locations around the city for the first 60 bike stations of the Explore Bike Share program have been announced, and the nonprofit has plans to add more stations and bikes in 2019 and 2020. The 600-rental bike system, which spans from Downtown, South Memphis, and Cooper-Young to Orange Mound, Overton Square, and Crosstown, is moving towards a launch later this spring.

“The most exciting piece about these station locations is that they were driven by Memphis residents over the last three years,” said Sara Studdard, Explore Bike Share community engagement and marketing director.

To determine the best locations to install rentable bike stations, Explore Bike Share hosted ongoing neighborhood engagements as well as an online effort. Residents submitted more than 3,500 "pins", which designated where in Memphis they most desired bike share stations. 

Related: "Bike share program will connect South Memphis, Orange Mound & Binghampton"
 

“At one point we had the same amount of pins, or people wanting stations, at Crosstown Concourse in the Crosstown neighborhood and at Knowledge Quest in South Memphis, and I think that’s a really great testament that all of Memphis is really exciting and excited to have a bike share in their neighborhood,” said Studdard.

The Memphis Dash bike system is the first of its kind in the U.S. Bikes are fueled by solar power with forward-facing touchscreens, including technology that can capture data related to miles ridden, calories burned, and popular routes. Other cities adopting Dash bikes later this year include Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Colorado Springs, Colorado. When installed, the Memphis system will be the largest Dash bike share system.

The size of the stations will be specific to their locations, with Crosstown and the South Memphis Farmer’s Market having more bikes and some neighborhood stations having fewer.

“The beauty of these stations is they’re all modular, so we’ll be able to watch the system and if stations are really highly utilized we’ll be able to add onto that station,” said Studdard. “We can also easily relocate a station due to resident feed

Rides will cost $5 for a single ride, $12 for a weekly membership, $15 for a monthly membership and $120 for an annual membership. Weekly, monthly and annual memberships offer users unlimited 60-minute rides from one station to another. If more than 60 minutes pass before the user docks their bike at a station, overtime usage fees will apply.

Twenty stations will have payment kiosks, and users will also be able to pay for bike rides and memberships through a mobile app.

Locations were determined based on multiple criteria, including solar power accessibility, density, proximity to other transit options, neighborhood usage, and ongoing community engagement efforts.

Explore Bike Share was awarded CMA grant from TDOT and the federal government that will fund an expansion next two years to 900 bikes and 90 stations overall. Future expansions will include the Shelby Farms Greenline, the University of Memphis area and Highland Strip as well as more of North Memphis.

A full list of upcoming bike share locations can be found here. 


New developer steps in to revive boutique hotel project

After sitting dormant for nearly a year, a mixed-use project going in at the former home of the Memphis College of Art's Nesin Graduate School is being jumpstarted by a new development entity.
 
Arrive Hotels & Restaurants, operating as South Main Hotel LLC, will convert the buildings at 477 S. Main Street and 484 Front Street into 62-room hotel with two full-service restaurants.This week, the Downtown Memphis Commission's Center City Revenue Finance Corp. approved thechange of ownership and timeline extension.

"With the prior owner running into some issues, we really were excited about this project and really wanted to come into Memphis, into Downtown, and especially into the South Main neighborhood," said Arrive co-founder Ezra Callahan. "That specific building is such a perfect fit for our brand model and our vision for what we do in general and specifically what we want to do here."
 
Arrive, which was originally involved with the project in a management and advisory capacity, recently worked out a deal to take over as lead developer on the project after the previous developer, Wessman Holdings LLC, ran into legal troubles in Southern California.
 
"We're now running full speed with it and are very excited to get the project moving again," said Callahan, adding that the developer is working on closing its bank debt.
 
Callahan hopes to possibly begin construction by this summer with Montgomery Martin as the general contractor.
 
"We think probably about nine to 10 months of actual construction work and one or two months of us moving in all of the furniture and getting the restaurants set up to open," said Callahan.
 
Los Angeles-based Arrive opened its first hotel a couple of years ago in Palm Springs, and it has active projects under development in Austin, Texas; Wilmington, N.C.; Phoenix; Houston; and Albuquerque, N.M.
 
"The core idea of Arrive Hotels is we build what we call neighborhood hotels. In our mind, hotels should be social landmarks. They should be a place where locals and travelers meet to mingle," said Callahan. "So we build hotels that are centered around public places."
 
He cites the role that village pubs played during the Medieval era as the social heart of a community in addition to advertising rooms for rent.
 
"We really think that's the model that hotels can and should play," Callahan said.

400 apartments and sprawling retail to replace empty warehouse on Broad Avenue


You can't miss it if you drive down Broad Avenue. A sprawling warehouse, built in the 1940s, sits across from the shops and restaurants that line the pedestrian-friendly street. 

A partnership between multifamily specialist James Maclin and Bob Loeb of local retail developer Loeb Properties will redevelop the site of the abandoned industrial property into 400 apartments and up to 15,000 square feet of retail. 
 

“Our intent is to develop in areas where we think we can provide some connectivity for people,” said Maclin, managing partner of 3D Realty, Bob Loeb's new firm founded to manage mixed-use projects. 

The warehouse on the northwest corner of Broad Avenue and Bingham Street, which Loeb has owned since the mid-1990s, will be torn down to make way for the redevelopment. Plans call for approximately 400 apartments, 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of commercial retail space and roughly 450 parking spaces. The iconic water tower will remain.

“The water tower is an amazing asset for the area and for the city,” said Maclin, former SVP and director of corporate services for Mid-America Apartment Communities (MAA). “From a construction standpoint, we want to make even more accessible and visible. The base of it today you can’t see because of the warehouse. Our plan is tear down the warehouse and leave the tower, and there’s going to be some activation and programming surrounding the base of the tower."

What is essentially now an eight-acre slab of concrete will be revitalized with green spaces.

“Per some of the things the Mayor has committed to or eluded to in the Memphis 3.0 plan is re-densifying the city so to speak, and this helps,” said Maclin. “If you get 400 units on Broad Avenue, that’s one step closer to meeting and helping the goals and plans the administration has for re-densifying the city.”

The market-rate apartments are expected to draw professional workforce tenants.

The architect on the project is archimania, and the lead general contractor is Patton & Taylor.

“This is a long road and a big project,” said Maclin, who hopes to complete zoning issues in the next 30 days. He expects demolition on the warehouse could get underway by the end of the year.

“We’re excited about Broad Avenue and Binghampton. The historical Broad Avenue arts alliance is a strong group that has created a really great place to eat, socialize and shop. And our project will only add to that.”

Once completed, Maclin’s M&M Enterprises management company, which he and his wife formed last year, will stay on to manage the property.

“As a leading partner in this deal, I’m making a concerted effort to be a part of the community,” said Maclin. “I’m not going to be an absentee owner. We’re going to be good neighbors.”


Developer rejuvenates Frayser retail complex

The dilapidated and abandoned Family Multiplex Center at 1025 and 1029 Whitney Avenue in Frayser is undergoing a makeover as developer and general contractor Stephen S. Dortch Jr. plans to breathe new life into the retail center over the next few months. The renovation is removing blight from a severely distressed area and creating a retail center supported by the surrounding neighborhood.

“This project will help bring the area up and restore some jobs in the Frayser community,” said Dortch, who started his contracting business, Dortch Construction LLC, more than 30 years ago.

The company, which Dortch built up for many years while also working at DuPont, repairs residential and commercial properties across the Mid-South and has also worked with the blight remediation programs for both the city and the county.

Dortch bought the multiplex building about a year ago, and he had planned to put a shop for his contracting business in one end of the building until recent health issues forced him to shelve those plans. Now he and his family, including his wife, Gloria, and son, Steve III, are turning the 11,203-square-foot building into a multi-tenant retail complex.

“They’re going to do a banquet hall on one end and a boutique with a barber shop on the other end,” said Dortch. “It’s going to be a retail and family-oriented destination for the Frayser community. I’ll be leasing some space to get some more good businesses here in the Frayser district.”

He recently received a $20,000 ICED loan from EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County) to help restore and redevelop the commercial space, which was constructed in 1958, into four separate retail sections. The center had previously been used as an insurance office and health clinic but in recent years it had fallen into disrepair.

“After we boarded it up during the winter, over the past month we put doors on each suite,” said Dortch. “Now we’re working on the gas and plumbing lines, fixing walls and painting, and working on the surveillance system for the cameras in the lot. We’re putting an ADT security system on the building, as well as new glass storefronts.”

The loan will also be used to upgrade the electrical system and to install an HVAC system. The project is supported by the Frayser Community Development Corporation, with total costs exceeding $50,000.

“The building is structurally sound. There are just a lot of repairs to do inside. We’ll definitely have one or two suites open in the next 60 days, maybe in 30 days,” said Dortch, whose future plans for the property include installing a new parking lot.


New leader building bridges for riverfront group

Downtown revitalization efforts entered a new era on March 26 when the Riverfront Development Corporation tapped native Memphian Carol Coletta to be the nonprofit’s new president and CEO.

Coletta replaces longtime CEO Benny Lendermon, who is retiring at the end of April.

We are excited to welcome a new leader who has both national stature and hometown knowledge and credibility,” RDC board president John Farris said in a statement. “This is our moment to create the riverfront Memphis deserves.”

Coletta currently works as a senior fellow for the Kresge Foundation, the Michigan-based nonprofit that is funding Memphis’ Fourth Bluff effort as part of its national Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative. In a unique arrangement, she will actually serve the RDC as a “loaned executive” from the Kresge Foundation. Her salary will be paid by Kresge, for whom Coletta will, in addition to her RDC duties, continue to serve as a sort of local facilitator with no grant-making power.

“My job has been to help Kresge understand who’s doing what and where I saw opportunities to fund good work” Coletta says of the foundation, which funds nearly 20 organizations locally. “Kresge is very happy with its relationship with Memphis and particularly other Memphis funders. So Kresge will continue to be a presence in Memphis, and I expect that presence to grow.”

Coletta takes over the reins of the RDC at a critical time in its history. In the coming months the RDC will announce a rebranding of the 17-year-old organization as well as an organizational overhaul widely expected to adopt a conservancy model, a type of public-private partnership that has been very successful in revitalizing Shelby Farms and Overton Park.

More significantly, the RDC is tasked with implementing the recently released Memphis Riverfront Concept, an expansive reimagining of six miles of the riverfront as envisioned by the internationally lauded design form Studio Gang. To help fund that effort, the RDC, which has largely relied on city funds, is aggressively fundraising.

Having already worked closely on a lot of the efforts surrounding downtown and the riverfront, including the Fourth Bluff, Coletta’s appointment allows the RDC to transition into its next phase without the organization missing a beat.

“This is kind of the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m really excited,” Coletta says of the challenge ahead of her. “We’ve got a lot of money to raise, but I look at this as creating a better future for Memphis.”

Coletta, who was recently named one of the 100 most influential urbanists of all time by the urban planning web site Planetizen, brings almost two decades experience of dealing with issues of urban revitalization. The University of Memphis graduate ran her own public affairs firm before helping start the policy-focused Smart City Consulting in the early 2000s. For nearly a decade, she also hosted a related public radio show, “Smart Cities,” that examined new urban ideas and trends.

Coletta served as executive director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation. She led ArtPlace, a public-private collaboration to accelerate creative place-making in communities across the U.S. and was president and CEO of CEOs for Cities for seven years. More recently she was vice president of Community and National Initiatives for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In February 2016, she became a senior fellow at the Kresge Foundation.


Broad Avenue shop donates bikes to Binghampton & teaches youth cycle maintenance

More people in the Binghamton area are taking to the streets on bikes restored through the Carpenter Art Garden’s build-a-bike program, thanks to donations from Pedaltown Bicycle Company and Victory Bicycle Studio.

Pedaltown, a full-service bike shop in the Broad Avenue Arts District, recently kicked off a new program for customers to trade in their old bikes which are then donated to the neighborhood’s Carpenter Art Garden bike shop. For the donation, the customer gets a 10 percent discount on a new bicycle.

Over the last two years, Victory, the neighboring store to Pedaltown, has donated more than 100 adult and children bicycles to the Carpenter Art Garden. Clark Butcher, owner of Victory and Pedaltown, also founded the Carpenter Art Garden bike shop in the surrounding Binghampton community.

Related: "Hugs come with opportunity at Carpenter Art Garden"
 

“We’re teaching the community and the youth how to work and repair and use their bikes. Our goal is to get more people on bikes,” he said.

Once the student fulfills 10 hours of service at the art garden then they are eligible to participate in the build-a-bike program, and upon graduation from the program they receive the bike, a new helmet and a cable lock.

“Whether it’s working in the vegetable garden or maybe painting trash cans for the clean-up group that we’re starting, they do different things that are beneficial for their community,” said Carpenter Art Garden founder and executive director Erin Harris.

The Carpenter Street work shop’s curriculum includes bicycle mechanics and the build-a-bike program where students repair and tune-up bicycles and then donate them to a child in need.

“We have kids participating and on the waiting list year-round,” said Harris, who started the art garden in 2012 with the intention of turning a formerly blighted property at 296 Carpenter Street into a place for the children in Binghampton to come to create art.

About 40 donated and restored bikes are available for group rides on the Greenline every Monday and Thursday afternoons for students from Cornerstone Prep Lester campus, which sits across the street from the art garden. The Carpenter Art Garden also hosts a slow ride for adults every Saturday afternoon.

“It truly doesn’t matter what condition the donated bikes are in,” said Butcher. “If it’s in bad shape then that’s just more learning for the students in the art garden bike shop.”

Three teenagers who went through the bike mechanic training program now work at the bike shop.

“It’s a great leadership opportunity for them and also having the younger kids see their older peers working in their community,” said Harris. “We’re trying to work up a partnership with the school to reward children for perfect attendance or high academic achievement with a bike.”

One of Butcher’s favorite things is to send a photo to the previous owner of the newly refurbished bikes being enjoyed their new owners.

“It’s a darn good feeling when you see your bike being appreciated,” said Butcher. “Maybe to you it was just something that was taking up space in the garage, and now it’s giving a kid total release from whatever his real-life situation is. It’s healthy, and they’re learning a skill set working on the bike.”

He hopes the build-a-bike program will be an opportunity for parents, children, and the students of Carpenter Art Garden to pay it forward.

“We’re invested here in Binghamton, and we’re trying to keep the donations here locally,” he said.

Also with an eye on improving the Binghampton neighborhood, the Carpenter Art Garden matches volunteers with roughly 70 neighborhood children and adults to provide vocational job training and opportunities. Each Tuesday, they work on art installations, take-home projects and gardening.

Renovations should be completed by summer on the two-bedroom house next door to the art garden that will be home to all of the nonprofit’s educational programming like tutoring, book club gatherings, art therapy and ACT test prep.

“We’ve been pretty space challenged,” said Harris. “We have three main components to our mission statement, which are the educational, the artistic, and the vocational training, and so this will give each part of that statement a place to operate.”

Carpenter Art Garden is also partnering with Pedaltown and Victory to add new bike racks to the property.

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