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Private sector tapped for public school improvements to Whitehaven and White Station high schools

For former White Station High School parent Richard Myers, lawyer with Glankler Brown, something needed to be done about the deteriorating condition of some of Memphis' public schools. So he came up with an innovative plan to fund improvements for White Station High and Whitehaven High, that if successful, might stand as a model for other local public schools.

“A lot of the public schools in Shelby County are getting really, really old, and the money to upgrade them just is not there,” said Myers, who cites the SCS district’s $476 million deferred maintenance deficit. “They barely have the money to chip away at deferred maintenance, much less upgrade the facilities and make them 21st century schools.”

So Myers is leading the way on a pilot program with a goal of upgrading White Station High School and Whitehaven High School. Much like at many private schools, private funds will be used to fund design and construction.

“The physical condition of White Station is just abysmal,” said Myers.

The SCS school system agreed that Myers could privately plan improvements, raise private funds, hold it privately in a 501c3 and hire a contractor to get the work done.

Partnering with the University of Memphis architecture program resulted in a 50-page master development plan for White Station High and Whitehaven High. Along the way, SCS changed its policy to allow donor recognition at the improved sites.

The first project at White Station will be a $175,000 community courtyard, which will be a green pocket park in a currently blighted area at the center of campus. A grant from the City of Memphis helped fund the designs from Dalhoff Thomas design Studio.

Fundraising for the initial project has passed the halfway mark for the needed funds, and Myers hopes to have the full amount within the next two months.

Once that project is completed, fundraising will begin for the $3 million library expansion, which will increase the size of the school’s library from 8,000 square feet to more than 14,000 square feet. Designshop is the lead architect.

“We’re going to renovate it, add about 6,000 square feet, and give a new façade to the front of the school,” said Myers.

Once the library is finished, work will turn to a new 10-story STEM building to bring the school into the 21st century. Currently, 2,200 students share only two small lab spaces, while similarly sized schools might have eight to 10.

Proposed improvements to Whitehaven High include the addition of a STEM building and a new vocational tech building.

New workforce training facility to be built in Bartlett

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology Memphis is designing a 55,000-square-foot training facility for its Barlett campus. 

In the past year, the college has helped 563 students receive a manufacturing certificate or diploma, and 81 percent of students were employed in their field of study.

To fund the project, TCAT Memphis received $1 million from the city of Bartlett, $1 million from the Gene HAAS Foundation and $15 million from the state of Tennessee.

“We’ll have medical devices as a focus,” said Roland Rayner, TCAT Memphis president. “And we’re also going to introduce five or six additional programs, including automotive, heavy equipment, HVAC and IT. We’re excited to expand into some high-demand areas that allow individuals with those skills to make a lot of money at the companies here in Shelby County.”

Memphis is the second largest producer of medical device components in the nation.

Rayner expects to see an 18-month timeline from design to the completion of construction of the facility, which will be located at Appling Road and Brother Boulevard.

In October, TCAT Memphis and Bartlett City Schools unveiled a new partnership to provide college-level machine tool training to juniors and seniors at Bartlett High School. The partnership includes the placement of a machine tool technology lab on the Bartlett High School campus to promote early college credit for in-demand skills.

“We do work with the youth through our Dual Enrollment program,” said Rayner. “It’s a good opportunity for TCAT and for the Bartlett High School students. It gives them an opportunity to get some post-secondary hours and training in while they’re still in high school.”

The lab will specifically focus on developing skills to meet the demands of employers in West Tennessee. Students will receive training on equipment such as lathes and mills, including how to use and program the machines for professional purposes. The equipment matches the technology utilized by many local medical device manufacturers in the Shelby County area. 

“It really all boils down to getting the secondary students involved in terms of technical education at a much earlier stage,” said Rayner. “It really helps us to increase the pipeline of trained individuals that is very much needed in especially the medical device industry.”

TCAT Memphis is also in the process of going through the accreditation phase getting the program prepared to accept adults.

The college also works with Southwest Career and Technical School and Trezevant High School.

“It’s a holistic approach that we’re taking,” said Rayner. “The higher skilled workforce in the community, the better draw that you have with trying to get industry into the area.”

Kid-friendly Lula’s Frozen Treats brings fun to Frayser

After 30 years of working for the postal service, entrepreneur Gwendolyn House Smith is making a sweet career move. 

This month, she opens her first business. Lula's Frozen Treats, named for House Smith's mother Lula May, opens at 1750 Frayser Boulevard. 

“She always made us homemade ice cream coming up,” said House Smith.

Earlier this year, House Smith retired from the postal industry to take care of her husband, who had lung cancer. After his passing in July, House Smith began thinking about opening her own business.

House Smith has a lot of family in Frayser, including 26 great nieces and nephews.

“I love kids,” said House Smith. “Since everything’s left out of Frayser, I want to give the kids something to do, to bring back to the community somewhere that they can go and have fun.”

She stressed that providing a safe environment for the children is a top priority.

Construction is underway on the 1,200-square-foot space, and Infinity Construction is the general contractor. Plans include a new patio to be built outside over the month before the shop opens. The interior is being torn out, and new designs feature a room where the kids can watch Disney movies.

House Smith expects the shop to be open before Christmas.

To assist with her efforts, House Smith received a $18,000 loan from the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County. The money will also be used for hiring two additional employees to start out.

“The EDGE loan is helping me a lot,” said House Smith. “It will play a big part in the money I will have to start up the ice cream shop.”

She became acquainted with the EDGE program because it had also assisted her son, Jamal Arnold, with one of his businesses. Lula’s Frozen Treats will sit next to Arnold's barber shop, On the Spot Cuts & Styles, at 3147 Frayser Boulevard.

“To get good ice cream, you have to go to Bartlett or the Wolfchase area,” said House Smith, who is hoping to finalize a deal soon to carry Blue Bell Ice Cream. “I’m hoping to start out with 12 or 13 different flavors, and we will have sundaes. We’re also looking into doing shaved ice.”

ZenStudio Fitness to open first Memphis location

ZenStudio Fitness owner Camden Hyneman never liked to work out that much, but she loved cycling and became hooked on it while attending Fordham University and living in New York City in the late 2000s. She had intended to pursue her doctorate after finishing graduate school, but instead moved home to Arkansas to open her own business.

“I thought the idea of opening a boutique spin studio was really awesome, so I moved home to Arkansas to open one in Jonesboro in 2010,” said Hyneman. The business was called ZenSpin originally, and by the time a second location opened in Little Rock in 2012 the studio had added barre, yoga and strength classes.

That’s when Hyneman changed the name of the business to ZenStudio Fitness. ZenStudio is an Arkansas-based group fitness boutique offering indoor cycling, barre, yoga, pilates, bounce, and interval training classes

Now with four locations in Arkansas, she’s chosen Memphis for the newest location. Construction is underway in East Memphis on a 2,790-square-foot space owned by Loeb Properties at 5270 Poplar Avenue.

“It’s a great building that centrally located. We’ll have a lot of space. We’ll be able to have child care, showers, and this will be our first studio that has tiered, stadium seating,” said Hyneman.

The building was gutted, and interiors are being built from the ground up. R&R General Contractors is coordinating the construction and design work.

Last year, ZenStudio opened its first licensed studio (with a different owner) in Fayetteville. Memphis had been on Hyneman’s mind for a long time for future expansion.

“I’m from Jonesboro, and I grew up on Memphis. I love Memphis, always loved it,” said Hyneman. “I felt like Memphis hasn’t really been tapped into with hybrid group studios yet, where we have multiple types of classes under one roof but more in a boutique setting versus a large box gym.”

She plans to move to Memphis to manage and run the new studio, which should be open by early 2018. A staff of roughly 15 will be hired, including highly trained instructors for the variety of classes offered.

“I’m also interested in opening a location in Germantown, and Nashville has been on my radar for a while,” said Hyneman. “We’re also talking with some people about licensing some more studios."

International boutique hotel to replace Downtown mainstay

A Downtown hotel originally developed in the mid-1990s is being rebranded as a boutique millennial-targeted hotel. 

Summit Management Corporation is renovating and converting the Sleep Inn at Court Square at 40 N. Front Street to Marriott’s experiential hotel brand targeting millennials, Moxy Hotels. The 118-room hotel will undergo a $3 million makeover this winter.

Moxy Memphis Downtown should debut by early 2018,

“The hotel addresses the need for a differentiated product for Downtown Memphis, being a boutique brand that’s really catered to the passion that Memphis shows and the attraction to millennials and young-at-hearts for a walkable neighborhood with lots of sights, sounds and flavors,” said Greg Averbuch, founder and president of Summit Management Corporation. “I think it will be a very good fit for Memphis.”

The hotel will remain open during the construction, which will get underway this winter. Averbuch expects to reopen as Moxy by the end of the first quarter next year.

Designs were handled by Manuel Zeitlin Architects in association with Memphis’ Bounds and Gillespie Architects.

The hotel’s bedrooms are purposefully designed tech-enabled spaces, including in-room internet TV featuring Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Bluetooth streaming, Pandora and Crackle; abundant power and USB outlets; fast and free Wi-Fi ; and 24/7 Moxy beverage and food self-service.

Designs feature a library and collaborative workspace; a bar, which doubles as the hotel’s physical check-in where guests are greeted with a complimentary cocktail; Moxy’s 24/7 self-service beverage and food concept; and a lounge.

“It’s really centered around the experience of the lobby and public space,” said Averbuch. “It has a lobby bar where guests will actually check in. There will be a very communal atmosphere atmosphere inside the lobby and lounge area, as well as on the terrace that will be on Main Street for people to gather and collaborate.”

The hotel’s reworked exterior will feature a modern front porch theme.

Summit is working with the Downtown Memphis Commission to receive an exterior improvement grant.

Moxy Hotels first launched in Milan in September 2014, and today there are 16 Moxy Hotels in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. In the next year, Moxy is expected to open in Amsterdam, Chicago, Minneapolis, Nashville, Tokyo, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

“This is an early adoption of an international brand, so it’s exciting,” said Averbuch. “When you juxtapose that with the Downtown experience, which has always been an exciting place for domestic and international travelers, it’s a good fit for Marriott bringing this brand here.”

Over the past 20-plus years, Summitt also developed the Springhill Suites downtown, which included the adaptive reuse of the Kress Building, as well as the Marriott Courtyard Downtown.

Up next, Summit is developing the Moxy Nashville Vanderbilt Hotel with a scheduled opening late next year.

Edge Alley and High Cotton combine operations and share dining space

Two up-and-coming business in the Edge District are combining forces. 

Edge Alley and High Cotton Brewing Company have torn down the wall that separated their two businesses on Monroe Avenue. The new partnership also includes sharing distribution networks as Edge Coffee Co. will piggyback off of the relationships and infrastructure already being used by High Cotton. 

"The guys that own High Cotton are really great with manufacturing and distribution, and my company is good at handling the guest experience and hospitality,” said Edge Alley owner Tim Barker. “So we’ve split the roles between the two businesses.”

Edge Alley now staffs the High Cotton tap room and handles all of the front-of-house guest experience for both businesses. Edge Alley will continue to operate its coffee bar, roasting operation and pop-up retail shops. 

“The goal is to build our outside coffee sales to the point where we’re able to share space on their delivery vehicle,” said Barker.

Right now, Edge Coffee Co.'s beans are sold at Miss Cordelia’s and The Dixon Gallery & Gardens.

“We have a lot of interest for retail placement. We’re still working on packaging and pricing for retail,” said Barker.

He estimates that large-scale distribution could still be six months away. The coffee is roasted onsite at Edge Alley, which can produce four 3-kilo batches per hour.

Edge Alley opened up four months ago, and Edge Alley and High Cotton share an investor. After purchasing the building next to High Cotton, the investor contacted Barker about what they should do with the property. 

“Part of the idea from the beginning was to pull down this wall that separates their tap room from our entry space,” said Barker.

Guests at High Cotton can now order Edge Alley food or cocktails and have them brought over, and people can bring beer into Edge Alley. 

“We’ve already started collaborating: they’ve used our coffee product in some beers, and we’ve used some of their beers in our food preparation,” said Barker.

Upcoming there could be some ticketed Small Plate Saturdays, where there will be limited-seat capacity pairing food with beer, wine and coffee.

Lab space at center of new Medical District partnership

Researchers and entrepreneurs in the biosciences and technology industry will have greater resources thanks to a new public-private partnership between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis Bioworks Foundation and TriMetis Life Sciences.

The partnership involves operating a lab space in the UT-Baptist Research Park in the Medical District to further the research, discovery, entrepreneurship and commercialization in biosciences and technology at the university. UTHSC recently leased the 26,000-square-foot TriMetis Laboratory facility at 20 South Dudley Street and is carving out space to TriMetis for its current and future business.

TriMetis is a contract lab, or pre-clinical contract research organization, that that works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies, offering lab services, biospecimen procurement, and consulting.

“This facility is one of the only in Tennessee like it, where you can conduct that kind of high-level research. The process flows are state-of-the-art. The features within and the numbers and types of rooms are all very different than what you would see in a standard lab,” said TriMetis president and CEO Phil Cestaro.

“As far as entrepreneurial activities, it provides a clearer pathway or communication channel to make this a possibility if you’re a researcher at UTHSC.”

The facility has several advantages for UTHSC, according to the school’s senior associate vice chancellor Dr. Steven Youngentob.

“One is that it’s obviously a brand new, large facility that can accommodate the needs of the UTHSC researchers for some time to come,” said Youngentob. “It’s also a GLP [Good Laboratory Practice]-level facility, ideal for pre-clinical trial work. What that means is that, along with providing our investigators with state-of-the-art vivarium capabilities for their normally funded NIH, NSF, [National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation] canopy-type research, the facility is also ideally suited for the kind of drug discovery and development going on on the campus, mostly spearheaded by people in the College of Medicine and the College of Pharmacy.”

At the heart of the partnership are f Dr. Steve Bares, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks, who focus is on building research through entrepreneurial endeavors, and Cestaro, whose focus is on building research through business development in the private sector.

Cestaro, as associate vice chancellor of research and business development, will focus on the development of external research opportunities with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies that could partner with UTHSC.

“The long-term vision for this is that we’re actively looking for research that would fit UT," said Cestaro. “This becomes a much tighter partnership because we’re trying to figure out how to grow businesses that utilize the services of TriMetis and the expertise of the university.”

Cestaro will also assist the University of Tennessee Research Foundation with the management of the statewide Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee.

Bares will work to help build out the pathway to entrepreneurship, with a focus on both capitalizing on existing research by professors and students and setting a foundation for future research and discovery. He plans to use targeted programming to expand access and expose UTHSC faculty to experienced educators and researchers who have successfully translated discoveries in academia to commercial ventures.

Bioworks also supplies the new partnership with a full conference center, including conference meeting rooms and a 250-seat auditorium at its building at 20 South Dudley Street, as well as wet lab research laboratory space.

“The vivarium is then well poised to connect to the research buildings to provide resources to there as well,” said Youngentob.

When the lease on the lab space expires near the end of next year, UTHSC can buy the facility and all land associated with it.

The school took possession of the facility in September, and the first animal researchers are in transition. The lab opened in 2014.

“There’s a capability for doing small-animal work, typical rodent studies, and also capability for doing large-animal work,” said Youngentob, who estimates room for 10,000 to 12,000 small cages for studies. “On the entrepreneurship side, it provides an ideal setting for doing pre-clinical trials.”

UTHSC’s hopes for the future include being able to build a bioresearch park on the land surrounding the lab.

Momentum Nonprofit Partners rebrands, plans move and other big changes

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence is making some big changes.

The organization held a celebration event on November 7 at Minglewood Hall to unveil its rebrand as Momentum Nonprofit Partners. Along with the name change comes news of ramping up staff, an impending move to a new location in Midtown, revamping its programming model, changing its membership structure and expanding its board.

“Over the past few years, a lot of the models for intermediary organizations have been in flux, and I think there’s a common identity problem for many of them,” said Momentum CEO Kevin Dean, who joined the organization in February.

“Really, the continued loss of funding was the impetus for these changes, but ultimately it’s a bigger issue both locally and nationally about non-profits finding what their identity needs to be in this current era. We’re just trying to keep ahead of the curve.”

Momentum has already increased its staff and is moving its offices from East Memphis to 630 S. Cooper Street in Midtown by next February.

“Parking is always going to be an issue with our nonprofit partners, and the new location in Midtown has 40 parking spaces built in,” said Dean. “You can’t find that in Midtown, so we knew we had to jump on it.”

Momentum works with 5,000 nonprofits in Memphis, addressing professional development needs of individuals and honing the talent that already exists. Its new programming model features three tiers: essential services for its members, professional development and training.

Momentum will no longer require membership dues, but will instead require that organizations have an account on, the comprehensive nonprofit directory that is part of the community information system. Organizations that have not yet acquired their 501(c)3 status will also have the opportunity to join and receive access to Momentum’s full range of services.

“We’re hoping it will allow new or emerging non-profits to join and feel included,” said Dean.

Participants will be encouraged to think and work collaboratively within a group, develop as a professional, create meaningful products to support their organization and to discuss and work to combat the issues affecting our community. Some of the programming will be offered for free, while other programs will be offered at a fixed cost.

The expansion of Momentum’s board includes a focus on diversity, with its first female board chair in 25 years and an even mix of corporate and non-profit members.

“We’re working towards building a board that is more reflective of Memphis demographically, including finding talented people of color that have great vision for the community,” said Dean.

Gill Properties plans new East Memphis mixed-use building

For developer Brown Gill, vice president with Gill Properties, Inc., working with property owners and their neighbors is the most important part of any new real estate project. His company is currently in the process of planning a new retail and office project in East Memphis on South White Station Road, north of Poplar Avenue.

The Grove at White Station will include a one-story building on 2.66 acres with 26,700 square feet of office and retail space.

About a year and a half ago, Gill approached five property owners about purchasing their parcels that sit between an Orion Bank building and the Girl Scouts Heart of the South Council headquarters.

“First, I told them about the entire process – how I work with neighbors, how the entitlement process works, and how we find users after that,” said Gill. “Second, I told them I wanted to work with them collectively. Then nobody feels like another seller is getting a better deal. Everything is done transparently.”

The owners were not thrilled with his first offer so Gill turned his attention to the company’s $90 million TraVure mixed-use project in East Memphis near Germantown until this spring, when he went back them and struck a deal they were happier with.

He now has contracts in place on four of the five properties, of which four are already zoned for commercial development. One currently contains an insurance office, two others are being rented out for residential use, and one is being used by an artist for art restorations. The fifth and final property is zoned for residential and is being used as a home right now.

“When you think about the entire block – Poplar Avenue to Sanderlin Road and Mendenhall Road to White Station – it’s the most dynamic mixed-use block in all of East Memphis,” said Gill, who cited its two grocery stores, major movie theater, 10 to 15 restaurants, great bars, abundance of office space and residential condos. “It just needs to be more pedestrian friendly.”

MEMFix is currently working local property owners to make the area more walkable.

Designs for The Grove at White Station were created by Victor Buchholz at LRK and engineered by Michael Rogers at Fisher Arnold.

“I was out at Saddle Creek II, the latest version of Saddle Creek [in Germantown], and I just loved its great looking buildings. They’re beautiful,” said Gill. “I felt like similar architecture could work for office and retail.”

The Saddle Creek designs were done by Buchholz, so Gill contacted LRK about coming up with something for his company’s new project.

Gill submitted designs to the City of Memphis this week, and entitlement approvals could come by early next year. He hopes to line up tenants next year, and if all goes well construction could kick off in spring 2019.

New shipping container retail village to open in the Edge District

Memphis-based development company Shab Chic is partnering with the Memphis Medical District Collaborative to bring a retail shipping container village to a lot on the 600 block of Monroe Avenue in the Edge District directly across from Edge Alley.

Shab Chic Marketplace at the Edge will provide an opportunity for startups and small businesses to show off their goods or services.

“It’s a way for us to get small businesses involved and put them in a position to test the waters for a brick-and-mortar store,” said Brian Christion, co-founder of Shab Chic.

Each shipping container is eight feet wide by 20 feet long, and there will be four containers installed at the location by mid-November, with an opening slated before Black Friday. The first vendors will be selected later this month.

“We have a waiting list of about 20 people who have applied,” said Christion. “And the best part about it is we are doing short-term leases of three to six months, so we plan to cycle out the shops at least two to three fold so we can give more people a chance to get into a space and see how it works for them.”

Applicants include bakeries, juice shops, a mini spin class and apparel outlets including a dog clothing company.

“We want to have fun and funky things that you normally wouldn’t see in a mall or strip mall,” said Christion. “We want people to come because it will be something different that they haven’t seen before.”

The plan is to keep the containers in the Edge District for two years, and then they could be moved to another location.

“At any given moment, we could set up a new design or a new layout and even put them in a different neighborhood to bring new businesses there,” said Christion, who also works in property management for Fogelman Properties. “The beauty of the shipping containers is that they don’t take up a lot of room, and you can arrange them as you need.”

The concept for the retail village has been in the works for the past two years. Originally, Shab Chic had planned for something similar to go in on Broad Avenue before switching tracks to bring the idea to the Edge neighborhood.

Youngblood Studio is doing the work to get the containers, which come from Whitehaven, ready for retail use. That renovation work includes adding insulation, heating and air conditioning and adequate electrical outlets for lighting and registers.

Memphis needs more historic renovations in underserved neighborhoods, panelists say

The urban renewal of Memphis, including breathing new life into old buildings instead of simply tearing them down, was the theme of a luncheon event on October 30 at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn ballroom, hosted by New Memphis and the First Tennessee Foundation.

Panelists included Archie Willis, president of Community Capital; Montgomery Martin, founder and CEO of Montgomery Martin Contractors; McLean Wilson, co-founder of Crosstown Concourse; and Eric Robertson, president of Community L.I.F.T. Dr. Noel Trent of the National Civil Right Museum moderated.

Topics of discussion included redevelopment projects across the city like Crosstown Concourse, Downtown’s Central Station and the renewal of the Medical District and The Edge. The disas well as the need for more work in Memphis’ poorest underserved communities.

Related: "Five upcoming projects that will change Memphis neighborhoods"

“Memphis has a wonderful history of having saved so many buildings,” said Martin, who cited the success of work done at the Pyramid, the Chisca Hotel, the Tennessee Brewery and Crosstown.

“These old buildings are beautiful. They were constructed in a way that is almost unaffordable now, both structurally and with the amenities. Often times, they look horrible [before redevelopment]. They’ve been abandoned, and we’ve let blight get out of control.”

Having a historic built environment helps to attract people to a particular place.

“One of the things that is said about Memphis is that we have a lot of soul, and I believe buildings carry that as well,” said Wilson. “When we looked at Crosstown and even Central Station, it’s this moment in time when we have the ability to participate in what is the future of something that existed well before we did.”

Challenges of adaptive reuse projects include cost and encountering unknown factors.

“From a big picture standpoint, our biggest challenge is how we spread development across all neighborhoods or at least some African-American neighborhoods,” said Robertson. “Right now, a lot of the work that’s happening is not primarily happening in communities of color.”

He pointed out that other cities have used land trusts to develop properties and then maintain affordable rents, which helps keep people in place instead of displacing them to other parts of the city and creates a sense of belonging. 

“The other challenge…particularly in communities of color is the fact that most of these neighborhoods are economically depressed,” said Willis. “When you try to attract capital into areas that have historically not been invested in or there’s a level of disinvestment, it becomes extremely difficult.”

Willis touted current revival of the South City area where he hopes to see a major transformation Downtown. Upcoming potential projects will include the financing and redevelopment of three empty school buildings at Vance Middle School, Georgia Avenue Elementary and MLK Transitional School.

Other depressed areas where the developers hope to see significant future activity include Frayser and Klondike Smokey City.

Entrepreneur moves family skin care startup to Cordova

Carol Cook-Scobey, owner of Essentially Divine Natural Skincare, is taking her business to the next level with a new storefront in Cordova at 7865 Trinity Road.

Cook-Scobey is a "third-generation botanist," she said. Years ago, her mother started making natural skincare products, and she and her sisters learned at a very young age how the process worked.

“As I got older and was in school, I loved chemistry, biology and botany, so growing up I continued to make the stuff that I loved, which was the rosewater soap – one of my mom’s best sellers,” said Cook-Scobey.

After high school and college, she continued making the products, mostly for herself and her children, who have sensitive skin.

Around 2012, she began selling her allergen-free soaps and lotions on the military base in Fort Bliss, Texas, where her husband was stationed, and she also started selling online. During her volunteer work taking refreshments to soldiers during field training, she discovered some of the female soldiers lacked basic personal care products.

“It just took off from there,” said Cook-Scobey, who eventually moved back to her hometown of Memphis with her family and sold at craft shows to build her clientele before deciding to open a brick-and-mortar location.

The 1,200-square-foot store offers soaps, lotions, shampoos, face creams, body moisturizers, baby care products, and men's products like shaving cream as well as jewelry and lipsticks.

Cook-Scobey had considered Downtown and Crosstown for her first location but decided on a spot closer to her home in Cordova as well as Shelby Farms, where she gets beeswax for her top selling product, Beeswax Body Renewal Cream.

She plans to hire one to two people, including someone to do facials and a masseur.

One of her passions is working with single moms in the community to help them to build their self-esteem.

“It’s just something I love to do. All of us want to be beautiful, and some are told they are not,” she said. “I help them with their resumes to help them get back on their feet and encourage them to get back in school for those who are not.”

Essentially Divine also touts a large customer base with seniors. Cook-Scobey’s future goal is to export globally to places including China, India and Australia.

Medical device distributor moving to newly renovated space in Edge District

An old building in the Edge District will be getting a new use in the next month, as renovations are underway at 691 Marshall Avenue at a site that had formerly been used as a tire alignment and repair business for nearly 40 years.

Owner Chris Liberto will move his Liberto Surgical medical device company from Downtown’s Candy Factory Suites to the newly rehabbed space.

Liberto is an independent distributor that who worked in device sales since the early 2000s and has owned his own business since 2012. The main device line for his company is Zimmer-Biomet, a manufacturer of bone plating and screws for facial fractures or neurosurgical procedures like craniotomies as well as for bone fractures of the chest or ribs.

Liberto distributes to hospitals in Mississippi, Arkansas and Western Tennessee.

“Over time, the business has grown and I needed a little more space for inventory,” said Liberto. “Strategically, the building is near to the hospitals where many of our customers are, so it’s nice to be close to the medical center.”

Liberto actually bought the building near the end of 2012 and had originally intended to renovate it and make it his home or a partial home/work space.

“Over the last five years, as the Edge has started to grow and become a real connector to Downtown and Midtown, I thought it made sense to put the business over here,” he said.

Liberto plans to occupy the roughly 2,500-square-foot eastern portion of the building for Liberto Medical, and the 3,000-square-foot middle bay of the building might eventually be leased or used for another business.

He has used the 7,000-square-foot western bay of the building for four years to accommodate another of his businesses, Edge Motor Sports Storage, which is an automotive club of sorts for people in Midtown or Downtown with limited parking to store their “fun cars," Liberto said.

“I bought the building because I had an appreciation for the history of the neighborhood, with this being right on ‘Automotive Row’,” said Liberto. “It’s very exciting to see it transitioning. The neighborhood’s changing dramatically.”

General contractor Garland Sullivan Company is handling the design and construction work. The office space features stained wood and exposed brick, the layout includes a meeting space for visiting clients, and a second level to the building will provide extra storage space.

Orange Mound stakeholders voice concerns about inclusion in fairgrounds planning process

As discussion continues around building a sustainable future for the Memphis Fairgrounds, with the next public meeting scheduled for November 6, some residents of the neighboring Orange Mound community said they’ve felt largely excluded from the planning process.

For the past two years, groups including the Urban Land Institute, the City of Memphis and resident-led Friends of the Fairgrounds have held public meetings for Memphians to voice their opinions on the site’s future use.

Mary Claire Borys with the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development said the City is doing its best to ensure residents are aware of scheduled public meetings and remain part of the process. She also said the City hopes to make improvements to the public spaces on the Fairgrounds and at Tobey Park, and increase employment opportunities for residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Related: "Underutilized Fairgrounds land is reimagined with City-backed partnership"

She said the City has been in communication with the Orange Mound Community Development Corporation and JUICE Orange Mound, a progressive nonprofit that works to fund innovative ideas in the Orange Mound community.

“We’re trying to be transparent and cognizant of all the stakeholders for the Fairgrounds,” she said. “We’ve tried to be deliberate in communications and be sure everyone’s involved.”

Angela Barksdale, a lifelong Orange Mound resident and president of the Melrose Center for Cultural Enrichment, said neighborhood residents aren’t being included to the extent they should, and she would like to see focus groups and community meetings held within the neighborhood’s boundaries.

The most recent meeting regarding Orange Mound redevelopment was held October 16 at The Kroc Center. 

“Orange Mound residents have been left out of the loop in a lot of situations and things that have occurred in Orange Mound,” Barksdale said.

“Meetings are scheduled when people are at work or meetings are scheduled and people know nothing about them, or meetings are scheduled and they’re not within our community. The root of the problem for me is there’s been no inclusion for Orange Mound to have a voice at the table. My hope moving forward that is going to change.”

Plans for the reimagined Fairgrounds include a youth sports complex to host basketball, volleyball, cheer and competitions for each of the sports. Also under consideration are indoor swimming and diving pools as well as outdoor fields for soccer and rugby. The City's proposal for redevelopment of the Fairgrounds can be found here. 

Under the City-backed plan, the vacant Mid-South Coliseum could receive a $37 million makeover to host amateur sports, providing space for championship games and opening and closing tournament ceremonies.

Orange Mound, which borders the south side of the Fairgrounds, boasts a rich sports legacy that includes Olympic athletes and NBA players.

Related: "Friends of the Fairgrounds looks to partner with the city on Fairgrounds redevelopment"

Joyce Dorse-Coleman, who has lived in Orange Mound for most of her life, said she’s concerned about whether the neighborhood’s young people will have access to the sports facilities included in the revitalization plan.

“We don’t have too much for our young people to do as it is,” she said. “How are you including our young people?"

The proposed plan does mention free or reduced ticket prices on certain days.

Residents said they’re also concerned about whether the redeveloped Fairgrounds would provide jobs for their neighbors. Libertyland, the amusement park once located on the Fairgrounds before it closed in 2005, once provided jobs for residents. Both Dorse-Coleman and Barksdale worked there at one time.

Living wage jobs and local hiring are stated in the proposed plan as part of its community benefit agreements, or assets potentially produced through economic development that can meet community needs. Neighborhood connectivity, including bike lanes, landscaping, lighting, walkability improvements and safety, would also be part of the package.

Borys said the City has already been looking at sprucing up the area of Orange Mound adjacent to the Fairgrounds by upgrading the underpass at Southern and Boston, which is in need of lighting and repairs. But, she said it’s a challenge to create an attractive entrance way on Fairgrounds’ south side because of the viaduct and the railway that run parallel to the site.

The City of Memphis is considering applying for State of Tennessee approval to create a Tourism Development Zone in Midtown, a geographic area limited by state law to a maximum of three square miles, which would include the Cooper-Young Historic District and Overton Square.

The TDZ would allow for incremental sales tax to be used to fund costs associated with developing a destination facility. State law requires that the TDZ include retailers who would benefit from more customers being drawn to the area and generate increased sales taxes. If parts of Orange Mound were included in the TDZ, it could entice new businesses to set up shop there.

“We’ve had small business in Orange Mound for as long as I can remember – the mom-and-pop shops – that are no longer here,” Dorse-Coleman said. “So, what are we going to do to bring some of those back and bring revenue back into Orange Mound to help build our community back up? We’re the next-door neighbor. We need to work together.”

At an October 16 Orange Mound stakeholder meeting at the Kroc Center, the conversation heavily revolved around potential plans to convert the 40,000-square-foot old Melrose High School at 843 Dallas Street into a mixed-use facility like the celebrated Crosstown model. Ideas for the Melrose facility include space for visual and performing arts, job training, adult education, and a museum emphasizing Orange Mound’s rich history as the city’s first neighborhood built by and for the African American community.

A TDZ allows for incremental sales tax to be used to fund costs associated with a destination facility called a qualified public use facility, so that could possibly benefit Melrose High depending on what shape its revitalization takes. 

Borys said the re-use of the old Melrose High School and public infrastructure improvements to the retail area off Airways between Park and Lamar Avenues could spur private revitalization of that area. 

She said the goal is to, “create a new vision for the Fairgrounds that works for current stakeholders and new tenants, in addition to being welcoming to neighborhood residents and tourists alike.”

Memphis College of Art: A $30M 'miracle' could save the school from closing

Following a rich 81-year history in Memphis, including nearly 70 years at its campus at Overton Park, the Memphis College of Art announced this week that it will stop recruiting new students, effective immediately, and begin making plans to close the college.

The news comes on the heels of a recent announcement from the adjacent Memphis Brooks Museum of Art that it will move from its Midtown location sometime in the next couple of years.

Related: "Plans approved for Mud Island Aquarium Museum and Downtown home for the Brooks Museum"

Declining enrollment, overwhelming real estate debt, and a lack of a viable long-term plan for financial sustainability were the primary reason the MCA board of directors voted to shut the school’s doors by 2020.

“The most striking factor is the macro environment in higher education and the trends we are seeing across the country in terms of declining enrollment,” said MCA president Laura Hine. “Small liberal and fine arts schools have been hit particularly hard in the post-Recession era, and we are certainly no exception to that.”

Hine cites the destruction of the middle class in the U.S. in recent years and how many families are considering the high cost of education and the value of a degree.

Enrollment at MCA is down 35 percent this year to just over 300 students, and there has been a downward trend in enrollment for several years. Tuition at the private art college is $35,000 a year. 

“When you are small like we are, we’re tuition-dependent and can’t suffer swings in our enrollment,” said Hine, who describes the mood at the school as grief-stricken with the recent announcement.

Adding to the problem is the fact that the school does not have a large endowment to balance the scales and it is under the financial burden of 11 pieces real estate purchased years ago for student housing south of Poplar Avenue near the campus. In 2010, the college spend $2.5 million in rehabbing a South Main building to house its graduate school. MCA abandoned the effort in 2015 and sold the building to a hotel developer in 2016. 

The college will now begin to sell off its remaining real estate and other assets to fund its debt obligations and other liabilities, including providing sufficient funding to serve existing students who remain at MCA.

MCA is not admitting new students, and at the conclusion of fulfilling its obligations to existing students who remain in good standing, the school will close. The precise period of time for the wind-down has yet to be determined, but the school anticipates it will last through May 2020.

Hine is not ruling out a miracle that could keep the school open, but that would require a major endowment to get the school closer to its $30 million goal.

“We’ve been the recipient of donor generosity throughout our entire 81-year history,” said Hine. “We would need to have a striking increase in the amount of our endowment [estimated at $5 million currently]. If the community stepped forward and we started to see a trend towards our fundraising goal, anything is possible. But we don’t anticipate that kind of response.”

MCA’s popular Holiday Bazaar, now in its 67th year, will take place as scheduled on November 17 and 18, with proceeds funding existing student scholarships.

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