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Long-stalled hotel projects finally getting off the ground

Two projects stuck in development limbo for nearly a decade are finally seeing significant progress.

For developer JVD Enterprise, a new Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites near Winchester Road in Southeast Memphis is more than halfway to buildout and another boutique hotel planned for Downtown could get underway by the end of the year.

JVD President Vince Vaghela expects the six-story Holiday Inn to be finished by early next year.

“After we purchased the property and received approval for development, the economy collapsed in 2009 so we just sat on the project and waited on it,” he said. “When the economy started picking up, we had a couple of other projects that we were working on, so we finished them up and finally got into this one.”

The full-service Holiday Inn will include 129 rooms, along with more than 4,500 square feet of meeting facilities and banquet space, a full-service restaurant and bar.

Vaghela expects his investment in the Southwind/Germantown market to pay off for a number of reasons.

“The (Interstate) 385 is now connected to I-40, so we are expecting a lot of transient traffic,” said Vaghela. “And we will be the only full-service property in this area with a large banquet facility that will hold 250 to 270 people.”

Development on the 3.5-acre parcel got underway about one year ago, and Jiji Construction is the general contractor.

“We’re hoping to cover up the building soon and work inside for the next five to six months,” said Vaghela, who has worked in development for the past 29 years.

JVD owns four hotel properties in Northern Mississippi, including in Batesville and Greneda. The company’s new Holiday Inn will be its first project built in Memphis, although JVD did previously own the Days Inn & Suites in Collierville. They sold it in 2012.

The company is looking to do more hotel projects in the Memphis area once work on the Holiday Inn wraps up, including another project stalled since the late 2000s.

JVD owns the former Tenoke Building Downtown on B.B. King Boulevard at Jefferson Avenue that it plans to develop into a 12-story high-end boutique hotel.

The 135,000-square-foot building, which JVD bought before the Great Recession and then held onto for a number of years, will be restored and partially demolished.

Work could get underway on the Downtown project before the end of the year.

Conservationists offer green solutions to Memphis public transit

The aim to alleviate climate change could inform the future of Memphis' public transit system. 

Gary Rosenfeld, interim CEO of the Memphis Area Transit Authority, spoke to the local chapter of the Sierra Club about group about MATA’s hope of debuting new bus routes in August, the return of the trolley cars to downtown by the end of 2016, and how millennials and aging Baby Boomers are getting away from owning a car when possible.

“Transportation is important for all of us, especially for lower-income people who can’t afford a car, but it important from a broad environmental point of view because 28 percent of all of our energy usage is for transportation,” said Dennis Lynch, Sierra Club Chickasaw group chair and transportation chair for the state of Tennessee.

“And if we’re ever going to deal with the issues of climate change, then we need to find ways to reduce our usage of energy for transportation.”

Meeting attendees had the chance to discuss ways to improve Memphis’ public transportation system, including ideas for using circulator buses for getting people to more dense retail areas and installing permanently displayed, clear, colorful route maps at every bus and trolley stop.

Many of the problems in implementing the changes needed to take the transit system to the next level come down to lack of funding. MATA operates on a budget of $62 million and is seeking an additional $30 million.

“The city needs to decide to do it and find a dedicated funding source,” said Lynch, who mentioned how other cities have done so by tapping a portion of the available sales tax or Downtown parking fees.

He also cited the fact that 34 percent of carbon dioxide, a major climate change contributor, comes from transportation sources. His hope is that MATA considers making the switch to using all electric buses in the near future.

Rosenfeld told the group that MATA is working on a grant application that could result in up to 16 new electric buses to add to its fleet, and one electric bus is being delivered this week for MATA to test out around town.

“One of the things that‘s been a priority for many years is to reduce the number of miles people travel because obviously that means less fuel usage, less pollution, etc.” said Lynch.

“How do you get people to drive less miles? Make workplaces and living be closer together and also encourage people to coordinate their trips with carpooling, vanpooling (and riding public transit).”

The Sierra Club is involved with issues that are directly involved with the environment like clean water and clean air, and it also works with city and community facilities that impact the environment. Historically the Sierra Club has focused primarily on wooded areas and “wild places,” but for the past 20 years, focus has shifted to man-made places.

“We want them to be as environmentally sensitive and livable as possible,” said Lynch.

Carpenter Art Garden celebrates five years of creativity

A colorful art garden in the heart of Binghampton celebrates five years of community growth and positive change.

Photography, paintings and ceramics created by the Binghampton community will be on display and for sale at the Carpenter Art Garden during its five-year anniversary show on July 21 (rescheduled from June 23 due to possible inclement weather heading into the area).

Carpenter Art Garden from High Ground News on Vimeo.

On Tuesday, June 20, a special event just for the children artists of the art garden was held with the Mighty Soul Brass Band on hand for entertainment, MEMPops giving out icy cool refreshments and a several artists participating in a collaborative freeform street painting.

“The art garden is really about empowering the children and adults in Binghampton to make a difference in their neighborhood,” said Carpenter Art Garden executive director Erin Harris, who is a former elementary school art teacher.

“I just want to use my experience in art to provide a way for kids to make relationships and use art to bring their community together and bring about some positive changes.”

The art show will feature children’s art with a portion of the proceeds going directly to the kids. Also on display will be art from the adults who have taught at the garden through the years, most notably Melissa Dunn, George Hunt, Danny Broadway and Lawrence Matthews among others. The art garden is the producer of the popular wooden Grizzlies yard hearts created by young artist Donte Davis.

“This summer we’re employing 24 teenagers at the art garden, and they’ve been a part of the art garden since the beginning,” said Harris. “The kids, who started in upper elementary or early middle school and are now in high school or out of high school, still come here regularly. We want to celebrate that. It’s a very emotional subject for me.”

Seven of the eight adult employees of the art garden are Binghampton residents. Six properties on Carpenter Street will be displaying the work, including the Purple House, bike shop, the outdoor stage and the community garden pavilion, to encourage visitors to take a full tour of the area and see the impact that community art programs have on the Binghampton neighborhood.

“We’ll have half of Carpenter Street blocked off Friday evening so that people can tour all the properties, and we’ll have artwork in each area,” said Harris.

The anniversary show on July 21 runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“When I started the art garden five years ago, my intent was to have an outdoor art classroom and that was as far as my plan went. It’s grown to span seven properties in five years based on the needs of the neighborhood,” said Harris.

Carpenter Art Garden just acquired a new piece of property on Tillman Street across from the police precinct, and there are plans to install a new art park there.

Privately-backed public art fund will beautify the Memphis Medical District

Public artists and muralists will get the chance to beautify the Memphis Medical District thanks to a new public art fund offered by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative,

Artists can receive up to $2,500 to complete projects inside the medical district, and the MMDC will also provide participants with technical assistance including acquiring permits and approvals.

“As a medical district collaborative, we were getting requests from artists living in the neighborhood, mainly in Victorian Village and the EDGE District, with ideas for relatively modest projects, but they just weren’t getting the support like contacting a property owner or some funding for materials or supplies or questions about permitting,” said Abby Miller, MMDC director of programs and data.

MMDC had been developing a public art program in a more traditional sense, including scoping out a site and putting out an RFP for artists to respond to. One of the early proposals came from Melanie Pyron, a business owner in Victorian Village who completed an installation involving weaving designs of colored fabric into a chain link fence at the Urban Child Institute.

Miller said that Pyron's piece was an inspiration for a resident-driven art fund.

This first year we wanted to really test the fund and see how many projects people were interested in,” said Miller.

“One of the interesting things we learned as we were going through it, we had some business owners approach us who were not artists but wanted to be matched up with an artist, so we added a section where they could be linked up with an artist or a muralist through the public art fund.”

MMDC received seven proposals for the first round of funding, and grant recipients will be finalized in the coming weeks by a five-member panel including MMDC staff and other art professionals.

Applications may be submitted until December 1, and grantees will be selected every two months.

Proposed projects must be within the boundaries of the medical district, and proposals can come from professional artists or the general community for temporary or permanent art projects, which should be free to experience and accessible to the public.

“We’re really excited to give this opportunity to some artists in the neighborhood,’ said Miller. “We really want to see artists that maybe haven’t participated in a more formal RFP process. This could be a gateway for them.”

Earlier this year, a public art display from Cat Peña was unveiled in The Edge District, with funding coming from the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The art installation, which consists of a wave of blue streamers across the intersection at Monroe and Marshall Avenues, is complemented with new streetscape enhancements. The projects help to reshape the Memphis Medical District and Edge neighborhood by making streets and intersections more walkable and pedestrian-friendly.

Golden India seeks redevelopment of 105-year-old site within Overton Square

After 20 years at its current location at 2097 Madison Avenue in Overton Square in Midtown, Golden India restaurant hopes to move to a larger space to be constructed in place of the current duplex at 20 N. Cooper St., just to the north of the new Opera Memphis headquarters that is under construction.

The property at 20 N. Cooper St. is zoned strictly for residential use, but Golden India owners Satnam Singh and Manjit Kaur want to convert it to mixed-use with a combination of commercial and residential space.

“We have a 105-year-old house that’s only a façade. The house is in horrible shape. It’s really in almost total need of replacement,” said Jerry M. Johnson of Jerry M. Johnson and Associates, the developer, designer and builder on the project.

“It was built on a conditional slab, which is no longer allowed with code. It’s unfeasible to come in and renovate, and it’s somewhat of a derelict structure in that it’s obsolete and antiquated and doesn’t meet modern living standards.”

Golden India wants to construct a new larger restaurant facility measuring roughly 3,000 square feet, with living facilities above the restaurant. Singh and Kaur feel they have outgrown their current location, but they want to remain inside Overton Square.

Johnson points out that zoning for other properties nearby has skewed more towards commercial use in recent years, with architecture reflecting a mix of eclectic, modern, and traditional styles.

“Overton Square is very eclectic architecturally. It has no specific style. It has many different styles of architecture with many different types of tenants. Each brings their own flavor and flair of design,” said Johnson, who has worked in the local development industry for the past 30-plus years.

“The house at 20 N. Cooper is just purely a plain four-square design. It has no historical, architectural or district significance, and it’s not in a historic district.”

He sees the project as a win-win for the city, county and state because the property taxes go up and the property is put to a higher and better use.

The application for planned development will go before the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board on July 13, but it could see some opposition from nearby residents.

Gordon Alexander, founder of the Midtown Action Coalition, recently noted that other businesses that operate out of former residential properties nearby do so from the original structures, not newly built buildings, including Cafe Iris, The Second Line and others.

VECA street fair highlights emerging commercial district

On June 10, neighbors, friends and the community-at-large came together at the intersection of Jackson and Evergreen to learn more about this potential commercial district at the inaugural VECA Street Faire.

An effort pulled together by the Vollintine Evergreen board and more specifically the VECA Historic Committee, the focus of this event was for people to think big about this overlooked and underutilized intersection and enjoy the day’s activities.

The event included BLDG Memphis’ Mobile Front Porch where people participated in a community perception survey and information stations for brainstorming and discussions about the area’s potential redevelopment.

The survey primarily addressed perceptions of the intersection’s livability, commerce, repairs, convenience and beauty. It also asked participants what three big goals and three small improvements they’d like to see take place. Lastly, it asked what three uses neighbors would like to have in the District. Some common answers included more green spaces, a bank or a new restaurant.

The VECA Street Faire brought people together to enjoy live music, classic cars and food trucks and also imagine what’s possible in an emerging area of North Memphis.
“The Faire is part of a project that engages businesses and community residents in imagining a thriving Evergreen Jackson commercial district, including: desired new uses for vacant and underutilized properties, exterior building and site improvements, crosswalks and streetscape improvements,” said co-organizer Andy Kitsinger.

Currently the intersection is made up of a Mapco gas station, King’s Grocery & Deli, a former BP gas station site, Family Dollar and St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church and School. There are also several empty lots and store fronts that have a lot of potential.

VECA is bounded on the west by Watkins Street, on the north by Cypress Creek, on the east by Trezevant Street and the south by Overton Park. According to several neighbors, it is in dire need of some new retail and restaurant options.

Attendees were encouraged to get involved with the Clean & Green Initiative, a committee of the VECA board focused on fighting blight, rehabbing properties and beautifying the area.

Guests also learned a great deal about the makeup of the neighborhood including its boundaries, history and architecture.

Next steps are for organizers and the board to review the survey results and come up with a game plan for moving forward.

Expansion plans snowballing for Jerry’s Sno Cones

After nearly 50 years at its current location at 1657 Wells Station Road in the Berclair neighborhood, Jerry’s Sno Cones will expand and open a new location in Cordova this fall followed by a third and possible fourth location in still-to-be-determined parts of town.

“We’re starting the voting this week for the third location, and they will have all summer to vote,” said owner David Acklin, who prefers to go by Jerry.

Acklin the business from the previous owners, L.B. and Codria Clifton in 2004. He had been a  regular at the restaurant since its early days when it also operated as a car wash. The building was originally a Sinclair gas and service station built in the 1920s or 1930s.

Today Jerry's Sno Cones offers more than 100 flavors of sno cones, which are often served "supreme" with vanilla or chocolate soft serve ice cream mixed in with flavored shaved ice. 

In addition to its signature sno cones, milkshakes, and banana splits, Acklin's features a full food menu that includes burgers, pork tenderloin and fried bologna sandwiches, crinkle fries and more.

For a location off the beaten path, it has a steady following. Acklin estimates that the restaurant sells around 1,500 chicken tamales per week and about 250 burgers per day.

"We’re trying to do everything ‘old-fashioned.’ Nobody’s doing it that way anymore,” said Acklin.

The majority of Jerry's Sno Cones' business comes from walk-up customers. In the past year, the restaurant opened up a large eat-in area that can seat approximately 50 people.

“We’re gearing up for the new location, seeing if we want people to be able to come in or not,” said Acklin, who’s not sure yet if either of the two new Jerry’s will have an eat-in area or not.

In the back of the restaurant, a colorful chalkboard mural with the title “Before I die...” across the top gives customers a communal spot to create some art, enjoy their food, talk and hang out with friends and take in the nice weather.

A public vote hosted on the Jerry's Sno Cones Facebook page determined the second location. Construction in Cordova could begin mid-June with an opening possible by October.

The Berclair location employs a staff of 25. Acklin not sure yet how many people he will need to hire for the Cordova location.

When the voting ends for the third location by end of summer, Acklin thinks he'll let the public decide on a fourth location.

The time is right for M&M, a new multifamily developer in Memphis

The stars are aligning for real estate developer James Maclin, as he recently launched his new development company, M&M Enterprises, with plans to target multifamily development and management in Memphis and the surrounding regional area.

Starting my own company has always been a dream of mine,” said Maclin, who is a former SVP and director of corporate services for Mid-America Apartment Communities.

Maclin is considering sites for the company’s multifamily first project and hopes to have two or three new construction projects underway in the next couple of years in Memphis.

“I want to use my experience that I gained over the last 20 years working with MAA, the largest apartment REIT in the country located right here in Memphis.”

With MAA recently merging with Post Properties, Maclin decided to strike out on his own. Also, he and his wife and business partner Dr. Karol Maclin are set to become empty nesters this fall when their youngest of three children goes off to college.

“Multifamily is what I do. I know how to build platforms, I know how to build apartments and operate them on a large scale,” said James Maclin. “That’s what I want to capitalize on.”

“I think the opportunities are there, and it sounds like the city government is behind them,” said Maclin. “Pushing projects through special programs like EDGE (Memphis-Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine) and the Downtown Memphis Commission, I think the timing’s right and the stars are lining up.”

Future projects for M&M could also happen in other cities ike Little Rock, Nashville, Birmingham, and Jackson, Miss.

“In the apartment business, size matters,” said Maclin. “The smaller the project, the less efficient and more expensive it is to run it on a per unit basis.

So generally speaking, the sweet spot for a project is around the 150-unit to 200-unit range where you can have a team onsite to manage the day to day, serve the clients and meet the renters’ needs.”

While the apartment market is currently considered a seller’s market, Maclin expects to be ready when that shifts.

“Now is more conducive to developing apartments as opposed to buying and renovating, but at some point that will change,” said Maclin. “So depending what the market gives us, we’ll be able to take advantage of it.”

For now, he is happy with his newfound freedom.

“If you’re working for somebody or if you have limits on what you do, you’re stuck,” said Maclin. “I don’t have that today.”

Hedgepeth to build single-family homes near planned Overton Gateway

The neighborhood surrounding Sam Cooper Boulevard could be the next spot for new residential development.

Hedgepeth Construction is looking to build single-family homes in Midtown adjacent to the controversial Overton Gateway mixed-use project planned by Makowsky-Ringel-Greenberg (MRG) for the southeast and northeast corners of East Parkway and Sam Cooper Boulevard across from Overton Park.

According to a spokesperson from Loeb Properties, Hedgepeth is currently under contract with developer Loeb to subdivide three acres into 16 lots for single-family home construction. The expected price point for the homes should be around $300,000.

“This puts even more impetus on MRG to modify its proposal, which has drawn an overwhelmingly negative reaction from most of the major activist groups and neighborhood associations here in Midtown,” said Gordon Alexander, founder of the Midtown Action Coalition.

Loeb purchased the parcel several years ago after it had sat vacant for more than 50 years. The land, as well as the land for the MRG project, was cleared of homes in anticipation of Interstate-40 cutting through the area. That never happened due to a landmark 1971 Supreme Court decision to preserve Overton Park, which would have been sliced by I-40.

MRG’s Overton Gateway has received stiff opposition from many Midtown residents.

On the northern side of Sam Cooper, MRG's plans to build 54 apartments and 54 parking spaces. On on the south side of the street, the developer plans a combination of 106 multifamily units with 116 parking spaces, three townhome duplex rentals and three flats with four rentals each.

Designs also include walkable green spaces, several ground-floor bays for possible commercial use such as a coffee shop, and streetscape amenities like planters, covered wraparound porches, and a corner spot possibly for a sculpture or piece of public art.

Parking and height of the buildings are a couple of the main concerns with the project. Changes to the original designs included scaling down the number of overall apartments as well as the height of the multifamily buildings from five stories to a combination of three- and four-story buildings.

The project is also estimated to produce 115 overflow cars that would be forced to park in the neighborhood, something current homeowners are very unhappy about.

The Land Use Control Board is holding a public meeting on Thursday, June 8 in the City Council Chambers of City Hall regarding the project. 

Gestalt Community Schools plans city’s first community rugby field

The city of Memphis’ first community rugby field and its first turf rugby field will open up this fall at Gestalt Community Schools’ Power Center Academy in the Hickory Hill area thanks to a $250,000 grant from Republic Services through its National Neighborhood Promise community engagement initiative.

Republic will work in collaboration with the school and Memphis Habitat to complete the field along with additional volunteer and neighborhood revitalization projects.

“We started rugby about five years ago through the Memphis Urban Rugby League,” said Yetta Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Gestalt Community Schools. “What we liked about the rugby piece was the ability to focus on athletics, critical thinking and teamwork. We truly believe it’s a gentleman’s sport.”

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis, which recently completed nine homes in the Eden Square development near the school and plans to build additional homes there, helped connect Republic Services to Gestalt and PCA.

“What we realized as we are building out this community is it is important for kids to have a space to play,” said Young. “Our rugby team over the past five years has been traveling to Millington and to random fields in Memphis. We don’t have a home field, and we’re constantly up against private schools that have a lot of resources, beautiful fields and uniforms. In spite of all of that, we’ve gone to state championships.”

A volunteer cleanup day with Republic Services and Memphis Habitat is scheduled for the summer to prepare the rugby field for construction. Irrigation work will begin on July 1, and the anticipated completion date is set for October when the next rugby season gets underway for the Power Center Academy High School’s girls’ and boys’ teams.

“When we’re not using it for games, we will be partnering with other local organizations like community centers so they will be able to use it for neighborhood kids to play after-school organized soccer and weekend organized sports,” said Young.

“So we’re excited about what it will bring to the Hickory Hill community.”

While the grant will help pay for the field itself, the school is still looking for co-sponsors to help fund additional pieces like bleacher seating and a scoreboard.

The grant money from Republic will also be used to install a community garden, which should also be ready by the fall.

Neighborhood Docs to expand healthcare coverage in Lamar Avenue corridor

The neighborhoods of Cherokee, Bethel Grove, and Orange Mound in the Lamar Avenue corridor will enjoy better healthcare coverage over the next several years thanks to the upcoming expansion and rebranding of Neighborhood Docs, which has operated in the area for the past 15 years as Good Health Institute.

The organization recently received a 15-year Community Builder Payment-In-Lieu-of-Tax incentive from the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County.

“The project will take a dentist office that has been a longtime anchor in the neighborhood and expanding into a full one-stop shop with a wealth of medical services,” said John Lawrence, EDGE Senior Economic Development Specialist.

“The partners who are involved with this are really interested in providing service to people within the I-240 loop. Their service area includes about 26,000 people, and they were having to go outside of the I-240 loop or long distances for medical services.”

Neighborhood Docs, which was founded by Dr. Joseph C. Greer, D.D.S.; William Terrell, Jr., MD; and Rodney S. Meyers, currently consists of a dental practice and nutrition center along with an endocrinologist. Plans are to add an OB/GYN and family primary care including pediatrics as well as radiology physicians.

The ultimate goal is to impact emergency room misuse by promoting proactive healthcare through access to primary care doctors for both medical and dental treatment.

The practice will keep its six existing Good Health Institute jobs and then create 36 new jobs with an average base salary of more than $52,000. A capital investment of nearly $3.75 million will include $1,455,000 for the purchase of the property; $1,436,000 for new construction and site improvements; $528,919 to renovate existing space; $75,000 in existing personal property and $250,000 for new personal property.

“Two underutilized buildings (totaling 26,000 square feet) will be completely renovated and connected to create this medical facility,” said Lawrence. “It is quite a neighborhood improvement.”

Self + Tucker Architects created the initial designs for the project, and the property owners will have five years under the terms of the Community Builder PILOT to complete the renovations and improvements.

The project represents the third EDGE Community Builder PILOT, and EDGE hopes the work on the facility will spark future redevelopment in the neighborhood. The Community Builder PILOT program provides the same incentives that EDGE typically provides to industrial projects, but it is targeted to nonprofit and for-profit entities investing in urban revitalization.

Mama Gaia to open second location in Overton Square

Mama Gaia, a start-up fast-casual organic vegetarian restaurant that opened in Crosstown Concourse in March, will open its second location inside the new Ballet Memphis headquarters in Overton Square in August when the facility celebrates its grand opening.

“We wanted to expand the concept, but it was not the plan from the beginning to open a second location so soon,” said Philipp von Holtzendorff-Fehling, who started the restaurant with his wife Cru Peri, who is Mama Gaia’s chef.

“We love Overton Square, and we think there are a lot of people who are open to this type of food," he added.

Both Mama Gaia locations will offer a fresh, artisanal vegetarian menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as several vegan and gluten-free options. Chef Cru Peri, who trained in the prestigious Michelin Kitchen in France, has created a vegetable-heavy menu with items that will be handmade to order using organic ingredients, meaning they are neither genetically modified nor have they been exposed to any chemicals such as herbicides or pesticides.

The menu at Mama Gaia Crosstown features several types of pitas, quinoa bowls, appetizers, salads and soups and options for kids. Six flavors of organic soda are also available.

The menu for Mama Gaia at Ballet Memphis will be more compact and offer select food choices each day as well as coffee drinks, wine, beer and a few cocktails. The cafe will be open to the general public.

“The lifestyle of ballet dancers and students fits very well with our offerings, which are healthy, delicious foods,” said von Holtzendorff-Fehling. “At the same time, our space there will be very accessible to everybody.”

The 900-square-foot space includes a small prep room and kitchen in the back, as well as additional patio seating out front in the corner plaza area and inside the Ballet Memphis entrance.

“Our Crosstown location is much bigger and has a large kitchen, so we will prepare our fresh sauces every day at Crosstown and then drive them over to Ballet Memphis,” said von Holtzendorff-Fehling.

He expects to hire five or six employees for the new restaurant, and some of Mama Gaia’s existing staff from Crosstown are likely to also work at the Ballet Memphis location.

Architects at archimania and general contractor Grinder, Taber and Grinder, who are both working on the buildout of the main Ballet Memphis facility, are also working with Mama Gaia to help get it up and running.

Youth Villages breaks ground on $22M expansion

Development work is underway on Bill’s Place, an ambitious $22 million expansion to Youth Villages existing campus in Bartlett, with completion slated for the spring of 2019. The private nonprofit organization assists more than 22,000 children and families each year in 13 states and Washington, D.C., including more than 1,100 kids per day in Shelby County.

“There’s going to be nothing else like this facility in this part of the country,” said Youth Villages chief development officer Richard Shaw, who explained that plans for the expansion grew tremendously from the original concept.

The nonprofit initially had plans to simply add a gymnasium and a pool for the campus’ Boys Center for Intensive Residential Treatment, which was established in 2000.

“What’s happened over the last several years is we’ve had a waiting list and an increased demand for young people who have both co-occurring medical and behavioral issues,” said Shaw. “That led us to go through the process of developing a business plan and casting a vision for what this facility expansion could mean to us helping those most vulnerable kids in this part of the country.”

The 100,000-square-foot addition will create a 148,000-square-foot center designed to enhance treatment options for the community’s most at-risk youth, addressing a gap in services for medically fragile children and the growing community need for intensive treatment options.

Plans call for the addition of 72 beds, doubling the campus’ bed total to 144 and allowing approximately 435 to 450 youth to be helped annually at the facility.

“We also have other young people we serve in the Memphis area who will also receive some services at Bill’s Place. There will be a dentistry area and some other areas where we’ll have kids from other programs who will be able to come and receive some services and also use some of the facilities as well because there are going to be a lot of unique facility enhancements in Bill’s Place,” said Shaw.

Features that will serve as a creative outlet and recreational therapy will include a theater and musical performance room with space for the existing therapeutic drumming program, a dedicated art room, as well as a gym, outdoor pool, exercise room and outside playground.

Bill's Place also will add 16 new classrooms and a modern computer lab, eight family counseling rooms, an expanded health station with additional nursing staff, on-site pediatricians, dentists and optometrists as well as physical and occupational therapy rooms, two sensory therapy rooms with leading-edge tactile equipment and a neuro-feedback therapy room.

“Our goal is to find each of the young people a forever family,” said Shaw. “Some of them have families intact, they just need this level of care on a temporary basis.”

Brg3s architectural firm created the designs for the project, and Linkus Construction is the general contractor.

Bill’s Place is dedicated to William “Bill” and Marjorie Lawler, the parents of current Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. 

“Pat’s father grew up in an orphanage [from age 6 to 11] and had very bad experience there. That experience led him to put a premium on family with his own kids, and I think that really inspired and shaped Pat to do what he has done for his entire adult life, which is help kids,” said Shaw.

Youth Villages has raised $17 million of the necessary funding for the project, and Shaw hopes to complete fundraising in the next year.

The new facility will add approximately 150 new jobs by the time it opens.

Central BBQ owners to open new restaurant concept; plan expansion outside of Memphis

Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp, owners of Central BBQ’s three Memphis locations, will open up their newest venture, Sunrise Memphis, within the next two months. The pair are partnering with Ryan Trimm of Sweet Grass in the Copper-Young area on the new restaurant.

Sunrise Memphis is going into the building at 670 Jefferson Avenue and will feature breakfast and a “meat and 3” lunch menu with sandwiches.

“We’re going to make our own meats and cure our own sausages; try to be more of a farm-to-table, organic type of breakfast place,” said Blondis. “We will have a coffee bar as well.”

The 4,000-square-foot space will feature service similar to that of Central BBQ on Central Avenue, with customers coming to the counter to place their orders, taking a number, and the food being brought out to them.

“We had traveled down to Oxford and a couple of other places and saw some of the other restaurateurs opening up places like Big Bad Breakfast, and we thought ‘why don’t we do something like that’,” said Blondis. “And when you think about it, there are not a lot of choices for breakfast here in the city.”

He expects to hire 20 to 30 employees to start out at Sunrise Memphis.

Total opening costs are estimated at $200,000.

Central BBQ just celebrated its 15-year anniversary in April, and the company just announced an expansion partnership with Kemmons Wilson to open the first locations outside of Memphis.

Kemmons Wilson approached Blondis about partnering up last fall, and a deal was struck that gives Kemmons Wilson majority ownership of the units going forward. Blondis and Sapp will retain ownership of their current Memphis locations, catering kitchen and food truck.

“For the most part, I know they were talking about maybe doing one store here in town and go out of town with a minimum of 10 units, but I don’t know what cities they are targeting right now,” said Blondis. “I know they had spoken about possibly Knoxville or Nashville, and with their ownership of a lot of timeshares in the Orlando area that might be an opportunity.”

Conversations thus far have considered freestanding locations as well as locations inside some of Kemmons Wilson’s hotels.

Independent bookstore to replace Booksellers at Laurelwood

One of the city’s most popular bookstores, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, shut down in February at the Laurelwood Shopping Center on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis. That same space will welcome a new bookstore, Novel, for a grand opening by late summer.

“The previous store was never the problem over the years, it was always the operation of it,” said Cory Prewitt, COO and marketing director for Laurelwood Shopping Center. “We knew that a bookstore was profitable and viable. It’s something that city our size definitely needs and deserves. I hope it stays open forever this time because it’s owned by the right people.”

The 20,000-square-foot space opened as a Davis-Kidd bookstore and later converted to an independently-owned shop. The retail space will be trimmed with approximately 10,000 square feet for the bookstore, 3,100 square feet for a café and 7,000 square feet that will be leased to another tenant to be named later.

“We’re getting rid of a lot of the unnecessary items like DVDs and CDs that took up a ton of space and just didn’t make any sense,” said Prewitt. “So it will be a more compact store, but I think it will be a more efficient store.”

The store will also sell magazines, and Prewitt expects to see mostly local products sold as sideline items. The previous store had a merchandise buyer that did not live in Memphis.

“I think we’ll have a huge advantage from having our buying in Memphis, and the people who have worked there for 30 years will be making the decisions rather than somebody in a different city,” said Prewitt.

Archimania and the U. of M. Architecture Department are working on designs for the new space. Many former employees will return to work at the new store. 

“A lot of those people worked there for 25 to 30 years, so they were the store. They know books, and it’s hard to find that kind of personable knowledge these days,” said Prewitt. “I thought they got a raw deal with the liquidation, and we wanted to make things right.”

Novel’s lease is for five years with an option.

Construction should get underway in the next two to three weeks, and a grand opening is slated for August 1.

Prewitt expects to see some increased foot traffic from the new Nordstrom Rack development going in adjacent to Laurelwood, which has spent roughly $1 million on construction in the past year.

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