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  #221  
Old Posted May 8, 2010, 11:46 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Aerotropolis drives recruiting
Concept leads efforts of Memphis Fast Forward
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

As cities around the world are seeking an aerotropolis identity, Memphis is staking claim to the title of “America’s Aerotropolis.” Aerotropolis cities are centered around a strong airport along with robust transportation and logistics capabilities. Memphis economic development officials are using the aerotropolis concept as the lead initiative in their five-year Memphis Fast Forward plan to recruit and retain businesses in the area. Thanks mostly to FedEx Corp., Memphis International Airport has been the world’s busiest cargo airport since 1992. More than 3.8 million tons of cargo were shipped in 2008. A study by the University of Memphis’ Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Center for Manpower Studies at Fogelman College of Business and Economics shows that including passenger operations, construction and visitor impact, the airport generates $28.6 billion in annual economic impact and more than 220,000 jobs, which means more than one in three jobs in Memphis are tied to the airport. “Then, you have to have connectivity and access for people and for goods through all sorts of other modes to leverage that power,” says Tom Schmitt, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Global Supply Chain. “Not everything flies. You need to look for what’s the best combination of moving goods and people, looking at the lowest cost, the highest speed, the lowest carbon footprint.”

Economic officials tout similar advantages among the other three modes of distribution and transportation: five Class I railroads, the fourth largest inland port in the nation and the third-busiest trucking corridor in the U.S. “All of this emerged in a haphazard fashion,” says Arnold Perl, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. “We’ve had these different modes, but they’ve been silos — they haven’t been connected.” In 2009, the Greater Memphis Chamber started changing marketing efforts from “America’s Distribution Center” to “America’s Aerotropolis.” In fact, it has trademarked the logo and phrase “Memphis: America’s Aerotropolis.” “To me, aerotropolis is a compelling world brand,” Perl says. “It visualizes the greater Memphis region in the 21st century.”

Several cities worldwide have seized on the aerotropolis concept for their economic identity. In March, economic development officials from France, including some from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, came to Memphis for a three-day tour of the area’s four transportation modes. Paris is labeling itself “Aerotropolis Europe.” Similarly, Gaungzhou, China is labeling itself as “Asia’s Aerotropolis.” FedEx hubs in these cities bolster those claims. Schmitt says by embracing the aerotropolis concept, Memphis is putting its stake in the ground, similar to Central California’s “Silicon Valley” for its technological industries or North Carolina’s “Research Triangle” for its health care pharmaceutical expertise.

Memphis Fast Forward is a five-year plan that runs until 2012. During the Chamber’s annual luncheon in December 2006, the city’s economic development officials started to mold the aerotropolis concept into the lead initiative of Memphis Fast Forward. The city and county mayors are on the Memphis Fast Forward steering committee, which has four work groups: access and transportaion chaired by Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC senior attorney Julie Ellis, corridor development led by Commercial Advisors LLC president Larry Jensen, gateways and beautification led by University of Memphis president Shirley Raines, and marketing and branding led by Perl, who has been chairman of the Airport Authority for 14 years. The committees have been looking at ways to marshal government and business support for road projects, whether it is pushing large state projects or beautifying Plough Boulevard, Brooks Road or Elvis Presley Boulevard, all significant arteries to the aerotropolis. Plough alone handles more than 11 million cars annually. “People who come to visit the community have to have a first impression and last impression of our community,” says Chamber president John Moore. “Those are important to the Chamber because we need positive impressions in order to attract attention to our community to get people to come and recognize our brand and see what we can do for their business.”

It also means increased government participation in recruiting and retaining companies. Smith & Nephew PLC, for instance, has had its Orthopaedic Reconstruction and Trauma and Clinical Therapies units on the neglected Brooks Road for years. The London-based company had talked to Memphis economic development officials about the possibility of moving its operations to Raleigh, N.C. in 2009. The aerotropolis committees pressed for quick action. Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz and others pushed for stricter rules for adult entertainment establishments in the area. Memphis Police Department director Larry Godwin assigned more patrols along Brooks, helping to reduce crime. Several efforts were made to clean up the area more effectively. Wharton, then county mayor, lobbied Smith & Nephew’s London leadership, expressing the local government’s commitment to the company. Because of this commitment, Smith & Nephew purchased the former Concord EFS Inc. headquarters, a 285,000-square-foot office building at Goodlett Farms in northeast Memphis, while keeping manufacturing operations on Brooks Road. The new facility, which involves a total investment of $42 million, means 160 more employees with an average wage of $101,000 a year, including benefits. “That economic development opportunity was ours to lose,” Moore says. “Because of this activity, we’ve saved the jobs we have, but we’ve opened up the opportunity for growth with that company in the future.”

Last edited by Johnny Ryall; Aug 2, 2013 at 2:20 PM.
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  #222  
Old Posted May 10, 2010, 4:45 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Steel processor ready to expand
EMJ moving to Arlington to build distribution center
Memphis Business Journal - by Michael Sheffield



Lynwood, Calif.-based Earle M. Jorgensen Co. is investing more than $5 million in a 72,000-square-foot distribution center in Arlington. The company, which currently occupies more than 40,000 square feet at 2076 Whitten Road, expects to start construction on the new facility within the next few weeks. It will be completed by the end of September. The company is designing the project in-house and is in final negotiations with a contractor. EMJ specializes in the cutting and distribution of metal bar and steel products for customers in the medical device, construction, heavy equipment and agricultural and aerospace industries. Steve Bosway, district manager of EMJ, says the company’s decision to expand its Memphis facility is in part a result of the continued growth of the medical device industry, both locally and across the country. EMJ’s customers include medical device makers with major operations in Memphis, including Smith & Nephew PLC, Medtronic Spinal & Biologics and Wright Medical Technology Inc. Arlington already is home to orthopedic device manufacturer Wright Medical, which employs almost 1,000 people. The Arlington location will provide ready access to I-40, I-240 and I-269, allowing EMJ to better service territories in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and northern Alabama, which make up the company’s southeastern region.

EMJ has been in Memphis for nearly 16 years and has 20 local employees. The new location will have a 67,000-square-foot shop and 5,000 square feet of office space. The local center has a fleet of nine tractor-trailers; nationwide, the company operates about 1,300 tractor-trailers. EMJ is one of 43 steel companies owned around the country by Los Angeles-based Reliance Steel and Aluminum Co. EMJ was founded in 1921 and was bought by Reliance in 2006. Reliance had total revenue of $5.7 billion in 2009. Bosway says while the new facility will not immediately result in job creation, there will be room for an expansion of about 32,000 square feet built into it. Then, he says, the company may consider expanding its work force. “Nothing is guaranteed, but we always end up expanding our facilities after they’re built,” he says. The project’s budget includes the land, construction costs and up to $400,000 in new cutting equipment. Bosway says the new facility will reflect the demand of a customer base that wants products processed before they are shipped. “Ten years ago, you’d ship the product and they would process it, but we’ve had to add that capability to what we do,” Bosway says. “The days of shipping long products are gone.”

In Arlington, EMJ will join AT&T and Scott Fertilizer in Eastridge Business Park off of Highway 385. EMJ has purchased 11 acres of the 74.75-acre business park. Edward Saig, president of NAI Saig Co., the company that sold the land to EMJ, says EMJ looked all over Memphis before deciding on the move to Arlington. “They’re doing a world-class distribution facility,” Saig says. “They’re a national organization and they’ve been leasing their facility and were looking to expand into something they could own.” Bosway says EMJ simply outgrew its current location, but had been planning the expansion for more than a year. The company has weathered the economic downturn, he says, because its diverse base of industries has prevented it from being dependent on one area. “Not that it hasn’t been tough, but we’re not just banking dollars,” he says. “Our thought is if we don’t invest in less-than-desirable times, when things do turn around, we’d miss out. But I’ve got to admit, it’s frustrating at times to wait for the economy to come back.”
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  #223  
Old Posted May 11, 2010, 4:05 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Rum Boogie At Heart of Beale’s Growth, Future
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

Photo: Lance Murphey

The oldest bar and restaurant on Beale Street marks its 25th anniversary in June with more of the same – live music. The stage at Rum Boogie Café has featured live music seven nights a week since it opened on the northwestern corner of Third and Beale streets in 1985. Preston Lamm, the president of River City Management, a restaurant business that began with Rum Boogie, said live music and one-of-a-kind businesses are the key to Beale Street’s future. “I think as long as we keep it local – not that there’s anything wrong with franchises,” Lamm told The Daily News when asked the key to the district’s future. “That’s what the tourists really want to see. They’re not interested in going to a restaurant they can go to anywhere in the United States.”

Twenty-five years after Rum Boogie’s opening, Beale Street is in a sort of limbo, between its first quarter of a century as a modern entertainment district and whatever comes next. All three of the entities involved in the operation and ownership of the district agree a change is needed for the district to grow. But they disagree on the terms of making the transition from the past 25 years to the present. A three-way legal battle between the city of Memphis, which owns the property; Performa Entertainment, which develops and runs the district; and Beale Street Development Corp., the middleman, is pending in Chancery Court with a tentative trial date of June 8. Attorney John Ryder remains as the court-appointed receiver for the district. Performa just paid to have a new roof put on the Old Daisy theater and three new clubs have opened on the eastern end of the district, which stops at Fourth Street. The new club openings came with a new campaign by Performa to aggressively promote that end of the district.

In the last 25 years, the eastern end has been more difficult than other parts of the district to attract and keep anchor tenants. The eastern side of Fourth, which is outside the district, has always been a thorn in Beale Street developer John Elkington’s side. The Plush Club on the northeastern corner has specifically been cited by Elkington as the source of some problems in keeping tenants in the block from Hernando to Fourth. The club was the scene of a bar brawl Sunday morning in which four Memphis police officers were injured. Police said up to 100 people poured from the club and were involved in the pre-dawn melee. Some of the turmoil is a constant in the entertainment business. So are unlikely transitions.

Lamm went from certified public accountant to bar owner in 1985. He described the entertainment district as “dead in the water” two years after its 1983 opening. The nation was in a recession, so money was tight for new businesses or old businesses that needed a cash infusion. Lamm was watching the district’s tide of red ink on paper as the CPA for what was then Elkington-Keltner, the developers of Beale Street. Lamm was about to get an even closer view when John Elkington heeded the advice of Ben Woodson, one of the founders of Overton Square. Woodson had told Elkington that in order to make Beale Street a success, he and the firm would have to go from managing the three-block collection of businesses to actually getting into the restaurant business. Elkington and Lamm got $175,000 from a group of private investors in California who initially weren’t interested in the restaurant business. They recruited a manager from Overton Square who moved out of town after a year. Another manager followed. “He immediately, two weeks into the job, decided he was a born-again Christian, which was fine,” Elkington said. “But he decided he was against drinking.” That’s when Lamm began running Rum Boogie. “If it hadn’t been for the Rum Boogie, we never would have survived,” Elkington said.

Lamm said he has never regretted the career change. He is proudest of the gold lettering on a window that has survived over the last 25 years that bills the club’s live music as “A Memphis Music Tradition.” After noting that the original window has survived all this time, Lamm knocked on wood and urged others in the room to knock on wood as well. ”Nobody was doing that in 1985,” Lamm said later of the decision to have a live stage every night of the week. “Every musician had to have a job because they could only be a musician on Friday and Saturday. We gave them full-time employment. … They were willing to help us build this.”
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  #224  
Old Posted May 11, 2010, 4:05 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Infiniti to open second dealership
Stronger sales, market coverage impact decision
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

ALAN HOWELL | MBJ

Infiniti of Memphis is planning to open a second full-service location in an effort to gain new customers while taking care of its existing customer base. The luxury auto dealership is hoping to open a new 30,000-square-foot, $3.75 million location at 3084 N. Germantown Parkway by May 2011. The company will continue to operate its 30,000-square-foot facility at 1831 Getwell Road. Infiniti of Memphis hasn’t gotten its full April numbers yet, but its March sales were up 56% compared to March 2009, according to Bruce Lamb, general manager of Infiniti of Memphis. He says luxury car sales are up nationally, with BMW showing a 7.9% increase and Mercedes-Benz up 16.1% compared to last year. “I think the luxury car buyer is coming out of the malaise quicker than the rest of the public,” Lamb says.

The Getwell location will focus on Midtown, West Memphis, DeSoto County and Collierville customers. Rob Walker, now general sales manager, will be the general manager of the Getwell store. “The new location is targeted at creating new business as well as taking care of our customers in Cordova and Bartlett,” Lamb says. “It will also help us extend out into Fayette County.” When Infiniti of Memphis acquired the 9.55 acres on Germantown Parkway in 2007, the plan was to close the Getwell location. “It was never my intent to close one and open the other, but the franchise felt differently,” Lamb says. However, as the declining economy slowed down plans, Lamb made his case again to the corporate office. “I thought we might alienate our customers in southern Shelby County and DeSoto County,” he says. “This also gives us a chance to create some new customers. They agreed and they are allowing us to open a second point.” Lamb says Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota and BMW all have dealerships on Germantown Parkway, while Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Cadillac, Ford and Chevrolet have dealerships in the Wolfchase area near Germantown Parkway and Highway 64. “Pretty much everyone is represented there,” he says.

Infiniti of Memphis currently employs 52. Lamb is not sure how many employees will be added after the new dealership is built. The new location will be on five acres initially, allowing room for future expansion. Lamb is actively interviewing contractors and hopes work will start in May. It should be a one-year building cycle. Memphis-based architecture firm Archimania is designing the new building. Todd Walker, Archimania principal, says customer circulation throughout the site is as important as its location in the vibrant Wolfchase retail area. The design has islands of display as opposed to the typical stacked parking normally seen at auto dealerships. The front parking area is designed with an alternately raised and recessed concrete walkway around amoeba-shaped asphalt islands that will allow customers to see vehicles at different angles. The asphalt islands are different shapes and can hold 12-20 cars each, depending on how those cars are parked. “It opens up the view of the cars so that they’re not parallel,” Walker says. “It gives you more reason to meander than in a normal parking lot atmosphere.”Cathy Ellis, a luxury auto dealer based in Atlanta, owns Infiniti of Memphis, as well as Atlanta Classic Cars and Ellis Infiniti of Little Rock.
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  #225  
Old Posted May 11, 2010, 4:06 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Condo Market Shows Signs of Rejuvenation
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News

As the housing market begins a slow but steady comeback, the condominium sector is contributing its part after a particularly dreadful slump. Shelby County saw 67 condo sales in April, a 5 percent improvement from 64 condo sales in April 2009 and a 24 percent improvement from 54 condo sales in March, according to the latest figures from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com. And the area’s largest submarket, Downtown, also is headed in the right direction. Condo sales in the 38103 ZIP code totaled 15 last month, up 114 percent from 7 in April 2009 and unchanged from March. For Joel Hobson of Hobson Co. Realtors, it’s another number – 17 – that sums up the condo market’s revival. That’s how many condos he and his team have sold at the 24-unit Goodwyn Condominiums since taking over for the building’s 21 unsold units following a high-profile foreclosure of the property last year. The 18-story tower at 127 Madison Ave. was a picture of the real estate’s woes – an ambitious redevelopment that began when the housing market was booming but came online with overpriced condos at a time when values and consumer confidence were plummeting. Now the building is almost sold out, giving a real estate veteran like Hobson reason to believe that the housing market has turned a corner. “I think it shows that there is still a solid demand for Downtown condominiums,” Hobson said. “It’s a pricing issue really as much as anything, a supply and demand issue. Because there were so many different condos on the market, the supply got inflated. The demand is still there.”

The positive news comes at an important time for Downtown, which has seen some large-scale projects like the Horizon fizzle after being nearly completed and others like One Beale never get off the ground. A host of smaller condo developments, especially in the South Main Historic Arts District, have faltered because of financial trouble or slow sales. But after three years of declining interest in Downtown condos, the market is showing signs of rejuvenation. For example, the 39-unit RiverTown on the Island condominiums on Mud Island, a Grant & Co. development, has seen positive activity this year and is close to selling out. And a 12-month study conducted by the Center City Commission shows that an estimated 2,000 people will move Downtown in the next four years, helping its population of 22,578 grow to almost 25,000, or a 10 percent increase.

Bolstered by the recent opening of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law on Front Street, which is bringing 460 college students Downtown, the market should see more demand for residential properties while supply continues to get absorbed. Memphis College of Art is bringing its graduate school to South Main Street, adding about 100 students to the area next year. And later this year, the Visible School, a music and worship arts college, will bring another 120 students to Downtown. Also, the University of Tennessee-Baptist Research Park is expected to generate about 9,000 jobs once finished.

Sue Tines, a broker for Downtown Condo Connection, already is seeing demand pick up. When she heard about a foreclosed condo and sent an e-mail blast about the property, she wound up with a bidding war for it just days after it listed. That’s the type of story that wouldn’t happen a year ago. “We’ve had a lot of people coming in,” Tines said. “It’s been building up.” Prices are building up too. Condo sales in Shelby County last month averaged $104,911, up 16 percent from $90,594 in April 2009 although down 31 percent from a spike of $152,915 in March. April’s total sales volume of $7 million marked a 21 percent increase from $5.8 million in April 2009 but a 15 percent decrease from $8.3 million in March. As for Downtown, the submarket saw its condo sales average $216,807 in April a 7 percent improvement from $202,550 in April 2009 and a 14 percent improvement from $190,487 in March. Downtown’s total sales volume last month was $3.3 million, a 129 percent jump from $1.4 million in April 2009 and a 14 percent jump from $2.9 million in March. Year to date, condo sales have outpaced 2009. Through April 30, Shelby County notched 201 sales, up 6 percent from the same period a year ago. Condo sales this year have averaged $126,839 and totaled $25.5 million, both of which are above the 2009 average of $102,951 and total of $19.6 million. Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.
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  #226  
Old Posted May 12, 2010, 4:16 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Cohen Bill Elevates Aerotropolis Concept
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News

U.S. Rep Steve Cohen hopes his colleagues on Capitol Hill will soon become as familiar with the term “aerotropolis” as the constituents he represents in Tennessee’s 9th District. The Memphis Democrat has introduced legislation that will help this city and others more fully develop their transportation assets under the umbrella of aerotropolis – a concept in which an airport and other modes of moving freight and people help drive an economy. Cohen and 13 other Congressmen introduced H.R. 5236, or the Aerotropolis Act of 2010, which would serve as an amendment to SAFETEA-LU, the massive transportation legislation from 2005. The bill, according to its opening line, attempts to “ensure that projects that assist the establishment of aerotropolis transportation systems are eligible for certain grants and for other purposes.” Cohen told The Daily News that passage of this legislation will help Memphis, already tops in the world in air cargo and a leader in other transportation modes. “It’s the first time aerotropolis has been introduced in Congress,” Cohen said. “If we can get this established, we’ll be eligible for funding down the line from particular sources that will help us become an even greater intermodal center in the nation.” Cohen said getting his colleagues to fully understand how the aerotropolis concept works and why it can benefit their districts – as well as the entire nation – will take time, “but this is the first step.”

Aerotropolis is a term coined by John Kasarda, a business professor at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. Kasarda first used the word in the mid-1990s when describing Asian airports that were growing into sprawling airport-cities – self-sustained economies that boasted myriad office, industrial, retail and even residential developments around an airport. As Kasarda considered how the aerotropolis concept might fit within the American airport model, he noticed Memphis, whose airport ranked No. 1 in the world for cargo and was a passenger hub for a major airline. He spoke to the Greater Memphis Chamber in 2006 about his aerotropolis concept, and the city’s leaders quickly latched onto Kasarda’s claim that Memphis was the most developed aerotropolis in the country and that it could be used to revitalize the region. With hopes of touting the city’s airport, as well as its other fully developed modes of transportation, the chamber trademarked the tagline “Memphis: America’s Aerotropolis. Where Runway, Road, Rail and River Merge.” Dexter Muller, the chamber’s senior vice president for community development and logistics council director, said this legislation further drives home the point that Memphis has been at the forefront of developing the American aerotropolis model. “The important thing to me is that it recognizes at the federal level that there are certain communities that have a leading edge in transportation assets and Memphis is one of those,” he said. More than anything, Muller said Cohen’s legislation, written with the aid of local business leaders like Julie Ellis of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC, keeps Memphis on the minds of national policymakers. “The federal government sometimes does not look at strategic assets in certain communities and say, ‘We can move the nation forward if we were to invest in these areas,’” Muller said. “It’s hard for them to do it because every city, every state wants to get money. This is a way they are doing it.”

Arnold Perl, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and a huge proponent of Memphis’ aerotropolis model, echoed that assessment. “The introduction of the aerotropolis bill reflects the necessity for collaboration between local and federal government to provide adequate funding to leverage the formidable assets in the greater Memphis area,” he said. “It is gratifying that Congressman Cohen’s bill was supported by other colleagues that understand that access to the 21st century isn’t just a local issue – it’s a national priority.” Examples of this city’s role as a national and global shipping nexus can be found everywhere, most recently when a Memphis contingency traveled to Beijing for the Airport Cities Conference and Exhibition. The local group, which featured Mayor A C Wharton Jr., airport president Larry Cox and others, traveled to China because Memphis will host the 2011 conference, a prominent event for airport executives across the globe. Another example of Memphis’ place on the world stage comes courtesy of FedEx, whose three-continent hub strategy touts Memphis as its North American hub alongside European and Asian equivalents.
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  #227  
Old Posted May 12, 2010, 4:17 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Connecting to the City
Downtown’s ‘hidden gem’ hopes for improved access
TOM WILEMON | The Daily News

Photos: Lance Murphey

Memphis will spend up to $1.9 million to stabilize a riverbank so a historic site, living museum and one of the city’s best spots for catching summer breezes can be protected. Carissa Hussong, the executive director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, welcomes the investment, but there’s another big item on her wish list. She wants this city-owned property, cutoff from Downtown by Interstate 55, reconnected to the municipal street grid. Next month, she may learn whether she gets her wish. The state in early June plans to present changes it has made to a proposed upgrade for the Interstate 55/Crump Boulevard interchange. “Yes, it is going to improve the connectivity,” said Nichole Lawrence, a community relations officer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The specific changes will be presented at the public meeting. Notices will be mailed out and publicly posted once a date and location are set, Lawrence said.

TDOT on its website says the interchange is “structurally deficient, out of date and creates multiple safety and efficiency problems.” Motorists heading to the museum have to weave and merge across interstate traffic to get to an exit ramp. The only other way to the museum is from McLemore Avenue in South Memphis. The state initially proposed two alternatives for the interchange. One of them eliminated the exit ramps to the museum. “I have concerns that they will cut us off even more from the rest of the community,” Hussong said. The museum isn’t the only place that could be cut off. The French Fort neighborhood, Chickasaw Heritage Park and a proposed condominium development are also on the south side of the interstate, just before it crosses the Mississippi River bridge. Homeowners and other property owners raised their concerns about the plans at a public meeting last July. Since then, the state has changed those plans, but the information on TDOT’s website has not been updated. “We’ve made some good adjustments to go back to the public with,” Lawrence said. “We feel like we’ve made a lot of outreach into the community with this.”

Government can move slowly. It took the city years to come up with the money to stabilize the riverbank. After years of requests, the city took bids for the project on March 12. Chris Hill Construction got the contract with a bid of $1.5 million. On April 27, the City Council also appropriated $153,662 for project contingencies and $250,000 for potential uncertainties. The uncertainties include problems with soft soil and the possibility of relocating utilities. The construction work has not begun. Hussong sat in a metal gazebo close to the bluff and looked out over the Mississippi River recently. She could hear towboat motors. She could see a giant tree trunk go by with the gushing current. “People often refer to the museum as a hidden gem,” she said. “I think that’s part of its magic. When you come down here, you really do feel removed from the city. You have this incredible view. Trees capture every summer breeze, cooling the whiffs of wind through leafy condensers and fanning them across the shady grounds. With this natural air-conditioning system, it’s a good spot for a blacksmith shop.

Photos: Lance Murphey

Kevin Burge, who does repairs and restorations, is one of about 15 employees. This week, he’s restoring a sculpture of an eagle. Most of his work consists of repairs to teapots or broken candelabras. But he does get some more unusual jobs. “I did repair on some Japanese gold-plated and enamel gold fish,” Burge said. “They were fully articulated so they moved like a real fish. They were pretty amazing.” Another employee, Jeannie Tomlinson Saltmarsh, is designing a line of gift items for the museum. The museum also does commission projects. “We’re working on a railing for a pool, which is going to be beautiful,” Hussong said. “It’s a stainless-steel tree form that looks like it is being blown over in the wind.” The museum also has a gift shop, a permanent collection and changing exhibits. “A lot of people have a misconception about what the museum is and what it is that we do,” she said. “A lot of people tend to think of it as being ornamental iron. While we do have quite a bit of ornamental iron, we are about all metals.” The work on display includes traditional ornamental pieces and more contemporary sculptures. The museum is currently preparing for International Blacksmith’s Day, which will be on May 22 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The museum uses events such as these to increase its membership, build awareness and secure financial support. The museum’s display space and offices are housed in historic buildings constructed in the 1880s to 1930s that were once used as a U.S. Marine hospital. “It would be wonderful for us to be able to complete all the renovations that these buildings need,” Husong said.
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Old Posted May 12, 2010, 4:17 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Fairgrounds Plan Has New Details
Skatepark Money Survives - Beale Street Landing Takes Hit
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

Memphis City Council members took up a trio of high profile CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) Tuesday as they prepared for the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

The Fairgrounds

Council members got their first look at detailed plans for “Tiger Lane”, the greenspace to be created at The Fairgrounds from East Parkway to the west side of The Liberty Bowl stadium by mid September. The full council will vote in two weeks on a construction and funding resolution. The specific plan council members saw at executive session Tuesday has the seven acre green space as its centerpiece. A “halo wall” with six pedestrian entrances near the west wall of the stadium to create a pedestrian plaza is a new feature. The parking lot north of the Mid-South Coliseum has also been taken out to provide for drainage of the greenspace, according to architect Tom Marshall. Marshall said the halo wall should also handle long term drainage problems in the Beltline area to the east of The Fairgrounds. Other recommendations include a larger entrance off Hollywood near the Children’s Museum of Memphis to relieve some traffic congestion on Central Avenue. There is also a proposed road across what used to be the Libertyland amusement park that amounts to a continuation of Young Ave. across East Parkway. The road would intersect with Early Maxwell Boulevard at the western side of the Coliseum. If Young Avenue is extended into the Fairgrounds, all of the parts of the plan would increase the number of parking spaces at The Fairgrounds from 5,600 to 6,600. If there is no extension and the Libertyland footprint becomes parking, the number goes up to 8,433. Tenants of the stadium have expressed concern about the parking spaces available for tailgating at football games once the football season starts in mid September with the Southern Heritage Classic.

Skatepark.

The council approved on a 6-5 vote keeping $440,000 appropriated for the construction of a skatepark. No location has been picked for such a park and another $250,000 has already been allocated for the design work once a site is picked. The construction money would not have automatically gone to a line item for a skatepark in the new fiscal year if the council had not acted. And several council members opposed the continuation because they feel it should not be moved ahead of other long standing park projects that haven’t been started. They tried unsuccessfully to delay the appropriation until after the budget season.

Beale Street Landing.

A council committee recommended rejection of $10,538,315 in funding for the boat landing and platform between Tom Lee Park and the cobblestones at the foot of Beale Street. The full council will vote on the resolution in two weeks. Council member Shea Flinn, who voted no in committee, predicted the votes on the full council are there to approve the funding for the project. Flinn said he questions the wisdom of continuing with a project whose price has increased as federal funding has disappeared.
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Old Posted May 13, 2010, 2:24 PM
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City Files Permits For Fairgrounds Projects
Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports – Eric Smith

The city of Memphis has filed a pair of building permits with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for part of the roughly $10 million in upgrades it will perform at the Mid-South Fairgrounds. City officials filed a $9 million permit to build concessions and restrooms as well as make asphalt parking improvements at 940 Early Maxwell Blvd. And they filed a $200,000 permit to install ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) restrooms and ramps at 945 Early Maxwell.

The fairgrounds will see a transformation over the coming years, including the Kroc Center of Memphis being built on 15 acres of private land on the northwest corner of the property. The Salvation Army of Memphis is building the 100,000-square-foot, multimillion-dollar facility, slated for completion in 2011. Meanwhile, the Memphis City Council is considering funds for the creation of a seven-acre green space at the fairgrounds dubbed “Tiger Lane” after University of Memphis athletic teams. These projects are part of the city’s larger fairgrounds redevelopment plan. For more details on this story, see the article “Proposed ‘Tiger Lane’ Features Surprises” and also at The Daily News Online.
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Old Posted May 13, 2010, 2:24 PM
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Proposed ‘Tiger Lane’ Features Surprises
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

Post Demolition: This rendering shows The Fairgrounds after all of the buildings and barns slated for demolition come down. It doesn’t show all of the improvements the City Council will vote on at its May 25 meeting. It does show the footprints of the demolished structures which would be used for parking

Public Green Space: This rendering shows “Tiger Lane”, the seven acre greenspace from East Parkway to the west side of The Liberty Bowl, with parking spaces on either side that could be rented for tailgating next to the lawn. It includes the option of extending Young Avenue across East Parkway, through what used to be Libertyland, intersecting with Early Maxwell Boulevard on the west side of the Mid-South Coliseum.
Source: The City of Memphis

Architects and planners laying out a seven-acre green space at the Mid-South Fairgrounds again went beyond what they initially planned. But this week, they gave Memphis City Council members plenty of notice of the new ideas. ”This essentially fixes the site in its entirety,” architect Tom Marshall told the council as he reviewed plans that included more than the “Tiger Lane” green space running from East Parkway to the west side of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. “We did go further than we intended to,” he said. “This is a surprise. This is different. But we wanted to fix it.” The full council will vote in two weeks on a construction and funding resolution. The plan council members saw at executive session Tuesday has the green space as its centerpiece.

Tenants of the stadium began expressing concerns earlier this year about parking for tailgaters as they saw parking lots vanish around the Mid-South Coliseum. The parking lot demolition went beyond plans by then-Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s plans to create the green space as a beautification project until more long-term plans for the fairgrounds come along. Officials from the University of Memphis, Southern Heritage Classic and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl expressed concern they would be into football season in a few months with fewer parking spaces than they’ve had before.

A “halo wall” with six pedestrian entrances near the west wall of the stadium to create a pedestrian plaza is a new feature of the plan. The wall and plaza would be in the area where the recently demolished Arena Building once stood. The parking lot north of the Mid-South Coliseum has also been taken out to provide for drainage of the green space, Marshall said. Marshall said the halo wall should also handle long-term drainage problems in the Beltline area to the east of the fairgrounds. Other recommendations include a larger entrance off Hollywood Street near the Children’s Museum of Memphis to relieve some traffic congestion along Central Avenue.

There’s also a proposed road across what used to be the Libertyland amusement park that amounts to a continuation of Young Avenue across East Parkway. The road would intersect with Early Maxwell Boulevard at the western side of the coliseum. If Young is extended into the fairgrounds, all of the parts of the plan would increase the number of parking spaces there from 5,600 to 6,600. If no extension occurs and the Libertyland footprint becomes parking, the number goes up to 8,433.

In two weeks, the council should have a cost estimate that previously has been put at roughly $10 million. The work would be completed by Sept. 6 with council approval at the May 25 session. Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb said the anticipated amount needed to fund the fast track project is in the city’s budget already.
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Old Posted May 14, 2010, 2:50 AM
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Good news for the Regional Medical Center of Memphis which has proposed a $400 million bed tower. Although seeing reductions in some areas of specialty medicine over the years due to funding problems with state government & TennCare, the Med remains a state-of-the-art Level 1 Trauma Center, Burn Unit & Neo-Natal Unit.

The Med to get more funds from Mississippi
Memphis Business Journal

The state of Mississippi has finalized the Regional Medical Center at Memphis’ participation in its Medicaid supplemental payment program, a move that could increase funding The Med receives from the state by $3.8 million in 2010. The Med has been involved in the Mississippi Trauma System and the state’s Burn Fund, which is used for treating uninsured burn victims in the state. The Med sees nearly 3,000 people from Mississippi every year through its trauma center, burn and obstetrics departments. Mississippi’s Medicaid program currently is billed for uninsured patients The Med treats. The Mississippi funding also could help draw matching federal dollars to support The Med.

Last fall, the hospital announced it was facing a $32 million shortfall that, if not addressed, would result in The Med drastically reducing services. In January, Shelby County government approved a $10 million gift that would help fund the hospital. The Memphis City Council turned down a proposal to provide an additional $2 million shortly after the Shelby County proposal passed. However, earlier this week, the state of Tennessee approved a $20 million appropriation for The Med for this year only. Med officials also are working on a plan to obtain federal funding to help eliminate the shortfall.
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Old Posted May 14, 2010, 2:51 AM
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Center City Development agenda loaded with new Downtown Memphis projects
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

The Center City Development Corp. will hear applications from some old and some new projects at its May 19 meeting. Memphis College Prep Elementary is submitting a revised development loan application for $200,000 to open a charter school. On April 21, the applicant requested a $120,000 development loan and $80,000 development grant. The nonprofit is looking to open a charter school in a 12,870-square-foot building at 278 Greenlaw Ave. Renovations would include installing an HVAC system, roof work and electrical upgrades, with construction scheduled to start in June and be completed by August. Memphis College Prep Elementary is seeking the loan so it can channel its limited funds into programs, according to the loan application. The project grades out for a $32,000 development loan, but the Center City Commission staff recommends the CCDC consider the full request of $200,000.

Greenbrier Partners LLC is also seeking a development loan for its mixed-use project at 436 S. Front. The company, headed by developer Vince Smith Jr., is planning to demolish an existing building. It would then construct a three-story building with 25 apartments, 25 underground parking spots and a 1,500-square-foot ground floor retail bay. The $2.5 million project is slated to start construction in August and be completed by June 2011. The CCC staff has recommended a $77,000 development loan, which could be increased to $82,000 if an exterior lighting plan meets requirements of Downtown’s Light It Up Program. The CCC’s Design Review Board would make that determination. The Center City Revenue Finance Corp. previously approved a 10-year PILOT for this project on April 13.

The CCDC also will discuss a development loan application from Mid-South Gateway Properties LLC, which plans to renovate a small apartment building at 699 N. Fifth. The $131,000 project, which has four two-bedroom apartments, would include installing an HVAC system, paving the parking area and replacing windows and doors. Mid-South Gateway Properties partners Dwaine Quarells and Kevin Gheens purchased the building for $104,000 and estimate the renovations will cost $27,000, with work starting in June and finishing in August. Although the project grades out for a $44,000 development loan, the staff recommends a $27,000 loan which will cover the repairs.

Finally, Carlisle Corp. will apply for an office occupancy grant at the meeting. The wholly-owned subsidiary of Wendelta Inc. plans to sign a seven-year lease for 16,000 square feet at 263 Wagner. The space is going to be renovated for $567,500, with construction starting in May. It will be owned and occupied by Carlisle Corp., which will have 37 employees there. The CCC staff recommends a $20,000 office grant, which can be used for tenant improvements.
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Old Posted May 15, 2010, 6:43 PM
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Rebounding Activity
Building permits show signs of recovery
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News

Franklin Farms was tied for No. 1 in Shelby County for building permits in April.
Photo: Lance Murphey

Shelby County homebuilders last month reached triple digits with new home permits for the first time in nearly two years. But instead of congratulating themselves for the increase in activity, companies are focused now on maintaining momentum and further pulling themselves out of the biggest homebuilding slump in recent memory. Builders filed 105 new home permits in April, the highest mark since 152 in August 2008. The April total was 156 percent better than 41 permits in April 2009 and 13 percent better than 93 in March, according to real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com. Permits last month averaged 2,522 square feet and $180,806; the April 2009 averages were 2,583 square feet and $175,042, while the March averages were 2,851 square feet and $197,183. Tommy Byrnes, president of the Memphis Area Home Builders Association, attributed the monthly increase to a basic model of supply and demand: As housing inventory is eliminated, the need for builders to replenish that stock increases. “It’s nothing but positive – we’ve more than doubled our permits from last year at this time,” said Byrnes, vice president of Byrnes/Ostner Investments. “I think we’re having a recovery that’s steady but not fast, more of a U-shaped graph. It’s starting to show confidence.”

The confidence remains high in certain submarkets that once again led the county in permit activity. Cordova North’s 38016 ZIP code was the top area for permits with 35 starts averaging 2,120 square feet and $153,627. It was followed by Arlington/Lakeland’s 38002 (22, 3,122, $184,331); Cordova South’s 38018 (15, 2,358, $161,157); and Southeast Shelby County’s 38125 (13, 3,441, $227,549). As for individual builders, Regency Homebuilders LLC was first with 19 permits averaging 2,285 square feet and $144,067. Regency was followed by Charles Morgan (12, 2,793, $193,555); Kevin Hyneman (11, 1,771, $142,455); and Phil Chamberlain (8, 2,281, $127,125). Sean Carlson, a principal at Regency, said the secret to his company’s success has been adapting to the market demands, whether that means finding a new place or a new way to build. “It’s trying to find some different subdivisions, keeping things fresh with some new floor plans, try to keep that excitement going,” Carlson said.

A positive trend from the recent data was the number of homebuilders, 27, that started a home last month, especially on the heels of months when only a handful of companies were building anything. Morgan, owner of Vintage Homes LLC, said it is encouraging to hear that so many builders were active during April, the first full month of the busy spring season. “It’s good to know that everybody had a good month because until everybody starts doing better, it’s going to be difficult for the whole real estate industry to come back and be of a real service to the community like it always has been,” Morgan said. Another positive trend from the April data was the high number of subdivisions that saw at least one home start last month. Shelby County had 39 communities with at least some activity. Franklin Farms and Sutton Place East in Cordova each had 10 permits. Franklin Farms’ homes averaged 2,085 square feet and $148,671, while Sutton Place East’s homes averaged 2,222 square feet (average value was not available). Other notable subdivisions were Rialto Square (6, 1,903, $135,333) and Gerland Creek (6, 3,071, $185,915).

With the highest building activity in almost two years, builders touted the conditions that created the improvement not only during April but also during March, which saw 93 permits filed. They cited a boost from the homebuyers tax credit (which expired April 30), the warmer weather, depleted inventory and a rise in consumer confidence. That said, the industry has a long way to go before it returns to even a fraction of its heyday, when the county churned out thousands of new homes a year. So even the busiest builders are keenly aware of the need to sustain whatever momentum has been created. “I don’t think anybody’s breathing easy,” Carlson said. “I think everybody sees a lot of positive signs. ... It’s great to drive through a subdivision again and see a lot of activity by multiple builders. But there’s still a long road to go. You just have to keep pushing.” Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.
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Old Posted May 15, 2010, 6:44 PM
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Morris Chosen to Head CCC
ANDY MEEK | The Daily News

Morris Daily News File Photo/Lance Murphey

Center City Commission board members used a host of adjectives to describe Martin, Tate, Morrow & Marston PC attorney Paul Morris before naming him the Downtown agency’s new president and CEO Friday morning. Bright. Passionate. Plugged in to the right area stakeholders and decision makers. Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr. wrote a letter of recommendation to Dave Smith, the CCC’s search consultant, plugging Morris as perfect for the job. Among other things, Wharton revealed something he’d not shared publicly before – that the new city mayor considered Morris for two leadership positions in his administration. Morris – with whom the CCC board will now begin contract negotiations for the $155,000-a-year job – also served on Wharton’s transition team. “In rounding out the transition team and the personalities to include, I must say that it was a foregone conclusion from the start that Paul would be a leading member of this group,” Wharton wrote.

In the end, it was those local ties that gave Morris an edge over Thomas Chatmon, executive director of Orlando’s Downtown Development Agency and Community Redevelopment Agency. The CCC’s search committee – which put in about 40 hours in the hunt for a new president – praised Chatmon’s background, but said Morris would be better able to hit the ground running on day one. Morris “has fire in his belly for the future of Downtown,” said current CCC president and CEO Jeff Sanford, who’s stepping down at the end of June. At Martin Tate, Morris practices general corporate law and specializes in intellectual property cases. Smith said the search for Sanford’s successor garnered interest from almost 90 candidates. And he said that was a testament to the number of people around the country who want to be in Memphis. “That means a lot of people think very highly of Memphis,” Smith said.
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Old Posted May 15, 2010, 6:44 PM
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Memphis VA Medical Center campus looks to add 2 parking garages
By Toby Sells

The Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus may get two new parking garages and office and retail space in what would be a multimillion-dollar deal. The project would bring a multistory parking garage to the northeast corner of the hospital on a parcel of land that fronts Poplar. Another, larger garage would be built on one of the roughly 4-acre surface lots on the hospital's west side, between Jefferson and Poplar. There are no fine details on the size, design or capacity of the buildings yet, as the VA will work with private developers to create the spaces.

The new garages are expected to alleviate parking problems around the government-run hospital for those who have served in the armed forces. VA officials said the campus lacks more than 500 parking spaces to handle its current workload and overall operations. "Our projections show that that number will continue to grow over the years and we'll be down more than 800 (spaces) in just a few years," said Alan Hackman, the VA's portfolio manager in the Office of Asset and Enterprise Management. "There has been a big shift from inpatient to outpatient services in the past 20 years, so there's more daily appointments (and more cars)."

The larger garage could be built to house office and retail space, Hackman said, to simply make the project more attractive to a potential developer. VA officials hope to lease the land and buildings to a public or private developer for 75 years in a process called enhanced-use leasing. The land and buildings would revert back to the VA at the end of the lease. This kind of lease strategy comes as VA facilities fight for limited budget dollars for building and maintenance, Hackman said. "There are only so many dollars available and the VA has 153 facilities not counting our cemeteries and office buildings, which are all competing for dollars," Hackman said. VA officials announced the project in a public hearing Wednesday night. They'll invite potential developers to the site in June, get their proposals and will likely select a developer by December.
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Old Posted May 15, 2010, 6:45 PM
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River feeds Aerotropolis concept
Oldest mode of transportation also most economical
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

When you think of aerotropolis, the Mississippi River probably isn’t the first thing to spring to mind. But as the oldest mode of transportation in the area, its ability to move raw goods, fuel and materials cheaply make it an integral part of Memphis’ transportation industry. In the aerotropolis concept, which is centered around Memphis International Airport, the river system provides an inexpensive level of access not available across the nation. This makes Memphis quadramodal, helping the city lay claim to the title of “America’s Aerotropolis.” In 2008, 16.3 million tons of goods, including 5 million tons of petroleum products, were transported through Memphis’ port system, ranking it 40th nationally in domestic trade volume among all ports, including coastal ports.

The city’s port system is the fourth largest inland port in the U.S. with an economic impact of $5.5 billion annually. Rivers like the Mississippi were the first interstate highway system, able to move large amounts of goods across the country, according to Don McCrory, executive director of the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission. The Port Commission was created in 1947 to handle development and operations at the International Port of Memphis. “The river system has always been important to the transportation system because of its far-reaching abilities,” McCrory says. “It was always the more economical way of moving cargo.” Today, much of the nation’s cargo comes by ocean, but it is tied to the river system. Memphis’ riverfront really started to take off as an economic tool before the Civil War with cotton trade. Memphis started to grow as a port when the railroads decided to build a bridge across the Mississippi River in the 1890s, McCrory says. Since then, industrial development has grown up around the port area. Developed in 1946, industrial park Presidents Island is just south of the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge and has four miles of harbor frontage and 960 acres of industrial land. There are more than 100 businesses operating on Presidents Island, including Cargill Inc., Drexel Chemical Co., Exxon Mobile Corp., GlaxoSmithKline and Ledbetter Foods. Just south of that, the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park has three miles of harbor frontage and 6,800 acres of industrial land.

Within the aerotropolis concept, the river interfaces mostly with the road system. McCrory sits on the Aerotropolis Access and Transportation work group, which is chaired by Julie Ellis, an attorney with Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC. This is one of four work groups for the Memphis Aerotropolis Initiative Steering Committee, which is tasked with overseeing implementation of Aerotropolis initiatives. That’s where you get people sitting together in a planning process, which makes your planning grow in a sustainable way,” McCrory says. “Those improve traffic and could help the delivery and shipment of goods from the port.” John Moore, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Memphis Chamber, says barge traffic is similar to railroads, in that river transport allows companies to ship large volumes of materials and goods at a lower cost than air or road transportation. This can include anything from grains to industrial materials. “It’s much cheaper to add a few barges to a shipment than it is to add more trucks to the road,” Moore says.

Companies like Barnhart Crane & Rigging Co. and Nucor Corp. are in Memphis because of the river, which can save a company thousands of dollars per shipment compared to other modes of transportation, according to Moore. Nucor, a Charlotte, N.C.-based steel manufacturer, has a property that touches Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Harbor.It’s one of the main reasons it located here, according to general manager Thad Solomon, as bargeload quantities are a good way to move raw materials to a steel mill. Nucor spent more than $800,000 in 2007 to open up the harbor. Its port operations are a mix of barges, cranes and trucks working together take materials on and off the river. The company plans to eventually move 50% of its inbound steel scrap, pig iron, direct-reduced iron and maybe steelmaking alloys by the river, which would mean 500,000 tons per year when at capacity. The company has had some issues with silt accumulating at the harbor, but is working with port officials on short- and long-term resolutions, such as annual dredging. In the meantime, it has been using other ports in and around Memphis. When it gets past its siltation issues, Solomon expects the harbor to be a big factor in Nucor’s Memphis success. “As we grow, our need for the river will grow with us,” he says. “We’ve got to get and maintain access to the river over the long haul. It’s one of the reasons we located here and it’s a competitive advantage, not only for Nucor, but for the Memphis area.” Solomon anticipates more orders will bring the mill to full capacity by the end of 2010. This would mean more than 300 employees and 850,000 tons of steel production annually.

The Mississippi River is good for more than just getting raw materials to the mill. Nucor is currently shipping finished products down the river. These goods have eventually made it to Mexico, India and Europe. “As a facility with global reach, that’s another important aspect of our business,” Solomon says. The Mississippi River allows product to go to and from the three economic centers of the world: North America, Central Europe and Southeast Asia. The river, while not the fastest mode of transportation in the aerotropolis arsenal, at least gives companies another option which many cities don’t have. “You can access rail which traverses the United States or you can go not too far from your front door and get to all of this barge capability,” Moore says.

Nucor Corp.
Steel manufacturer
HQ: Charlotte, N.C.
President: Daniel R. DiMicco
Employees: 20,400
2009 revenue: $11.1 billion
NYSE: NUE
Local address: 3601 Paul R. Lowry Road

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Old Posted May 15, 2010, 6:46 PM
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Wharton Confident Pyramid Lease Close
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

The city of Memphis and Bass Pro Shops have agreed to continue working toward a lease agreement for The Pyramid for another month. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. told The Daily News the signed extension agreement is the latest development in talks he had hoped would be over by the end of April. “We’re narrowing those areas where we still have to do some work,” he said. “Everybody’s working in good faith.” “Everybody” is Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb, Bass Pro Shops executives and “a whole passel of lawyers,” Wharton said. “Maybe that’s the problem,” he joked.

Bass Pro Shops executives committed in late March to a November 2011 opening date for a store and other attractions in the former arena. The declaration came after the city and the outdoor retailer reached agreement on maintenance of flood walls on the west side of The Pyramid and accepting the same set of standards for seismic retrofitting. The concerns about meeting seismic standards have been the most discussed and debated. As the owner of The Pyramid and its landlord, the city of Memphis will pay for the retrofitting. No estimate has been done, but city officials have said it will be “costly.” The city’s role is certain to involve using bond money to finance public infrastructure improvements in the area.
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Old Posted May 18, 2010, 2:57 PM
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Air Canada's twice-daily service between Memphis and Toronto starts today
The Commercial Appeal | By Staff



Memphis air travelers now have two, daily non-stop flights to Toronto as Air Canada strengthens its position as a trans-border carrier. Memphis International Airport is one of four U.S. airports to get new service as Air Canada expands its offerings. Cincinnati, Ohio, Syracuse, N.Y. and Portland, Maine also got daily flights to Toronto. The Memphis route will be flown by an Air Canada Jazz CRJ, a 75-seat plane. Delta Air Lines now offers twice-daily flights to Toronto.
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Old Posted May 18, 2010, 2:57 PM
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Memphis' dramatic growth as a rail hub has Chicago officials worried
By Peter Downs, Special to The Commercial Appeal

Photo by Alan Spearman

Memphis' growth as a major rail hub is getting Chicago city leaders and Illinois politicians to launch an ambitious program to remove rail transportation bottlenecks. Seems that while Memphis was busily investing in rail, Chicago wasn't. As a consequence, shippers who want efficient service increasingly look south. "We saw competition emerging from Memphis and looked at a potential loss of 17,000 jobs and $2 billion in economic activity a year," said Joseph Clary, who recently stepped down as director of public and intermodal transportation for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "I can't tell you how much I smile when I hear that," said Dexter Muller, vice president for community development at the Memphis Regional Chamber. "They used to say Chicago spilled more product than Memphis carried."

Memphis business and civic leaders began marketing the Bluff City as a freight hub and logistics center in 1979, but real growth really began only about 12 years ago. The turning point came as more and more manufacturing moved offshore to Asia, Muller said. Products arrived on the West Coast, but most of the population that would consume those products still lived east of the Mississippi River. The cheapest way to move product across the nation is by train and there are only four places where rails cross the Mississippi River, Muller said -- Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, and New Orleans is too far south to efficiently reach many markets, he said.

With Chicago beset by traffic jams and more of the nation's consumer markets reachable in one day's drive from Memphis than from any other city, rail carriers picked Memphis as a place to begin building intermodal facilities -- yards with specially designed cranes for picking containers off the backs of rail cars and setting them on trucks or vice versa. Starting with Union Pacific Railroad's construction of an intermodal facility that could lift 400,000 containers a year and including the expansion earlier this year of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's lift facility to handle 1 million lifts a year and the new 300,000-lifts-a-year yard that the Norfolk Southern Railroad is building in Fayette County, rail carriers have invested a billion dollars in intermodal facilities in the Memphis area, Muller said. And giant distribution centers have followed in the wake of those facilities, bringing 170 million square feet of warehouse space to Memphis, "way outsized for a city this size," Muller said. "Our strength is that we can move product through the city much more quickly than Chicago can," he said. "Chicago is No. 1 in rail and we're now No. 3, but we're poised for growth and we're working at it." That growth spurred city officials in Chicago to sit down with rail carriers and agree on 31 projects to speed rail transportation through the nation's largest rail hub. "You could see the traffic jams," Clary said, citing freight trains that took 36 hours to go from Los Angeles to Chicago and were getting stuck in the city for another 36 hours.

They call the list of projects the Chicago Region Environmental & Transportation Efficiency Program. The estimated total cost of the multiyear program is $2.6 billion. The rail carriers that serve Chicago -- save for the Canadian National Railroad, which is not a member of CREATE -- committed $115 million to the program contingent on Illinois committing an equal amount. Despite the state's fiscal crisis, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn upped the state's commitment to $400 million in his budget proposal this year. What makes Chicago partisans especially joyful is the support they are getting from the federal government. So far, the Obama administration has committed more than $600 million to the CREATE program. "This particular administration is very open to and very supportive of the state of Illinois," Clary said. The federal support for Chicago doesn't seem to worry Muller. As Chicago eliminates its bottlenecks, "it still will make more sense to go through Memphis to get product to Savannah or Florida," he said.
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Old Posted May 18, 2010, 2:58 PM
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Pinch, Pyramid to get $70M in fed money to prepare for Bass Pro Shops
The Commercial | By Tom Bailey Jr.

The city of Memphis plans to spend all its federal recovery act bonds -- $70 million -- to redevelop The Pyramid and the Pinch District. The money will be used to prepare the arena for Bass Pro Shops, strengthen it against earthquakes and bring new sidewalks, lighting, signs, drainage and other infrastructure to the adjacent Pinch District, Robert Lipscomb, the city's director of Housing and Community Development, said Monday. The spending also continues the city's strategy to protect the thousands of high-quality jobs at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a few blocks east of The Pyramid. If Uptown had not been improved, Lipscomb said, St. Jude would not have made its "$3 billion expansion." The city and developers have already transformed rundown housing projects flanking St. Jude to the north and south. "Now it's going to the west," Lipscomb said of the neighborhood improvements.

The federal economic recovery act provides about $70 million in subsidized financing for private and public construction projects to Memphis. "The (Pyramid/Pinch) project is an important one for the administration and the city of Memphis," city Finance Director Roland McElrath said Monday. Completion of a lease agreement is "imminent" with Bass Pro Shops, which would redevelop The Pyramid arena into a mix of retail, entertainment and offices, he said. Once Bass Pro Shops commits to remake The Pyramid, Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers would launch a related project to redevelop a swath of the Pinch District extending east from The Pyramid toward St. Jude. Complementing Bass Pro Shops' adaptation of The Pyramid, the Pinch District project also would be a mix of retail, restaurants and entertainment.

The federal Recovery Zone program provides two types of bonds. One is economic development bonds, to be used by governments only. The bonds would allow Memphis to pay 45 percent less in interest costs than with normal bonds. The city was allocated $27.7 million in these bonds. The other is facility bonds, to be issued by local government but used by private businesses. They are tax exempt, making the interest rate 2 to 3 percentage points lower, or saving 30 to 35 percent in interest costs. Memphis was allocated $41.6 million in these bonds.

Memphis would have financed the Bass Pro Shops and Pinch District redevelopment with or without the cheaper money, McElrath indicated. "It simply would have been a little more expensive if we didn't have the Recovery Zone bonds available," he said. The Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board and Center City Revenue Finance Corp. are authorized to issue Recovery Zone bonds. On Wednesday, the industrial board will be asked to support the city's request.

Last edited by Johnny Ryall; Aug 2, 2013 at 2:22 PM.
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