Behind the Headlines – November 10, 2017

Behind the Headlines – November 10, 2017


– (female narrator)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund,
and by viewers like you. Thank you. – Paul Young on the
fairgrounds, Coliseum, and efforts in
neighborhood revitalization tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight
by Paul Young, Memphis Housing and Community
Development director. Thanks for being here. – Thanks for having me. – Along with Bill Dries, senior reporter with
the Memphis Daily News. So we’ve got you on the
fairgrounds proposal, much discussed, has been
rolled out this past week. We’ll talk about
the fairgrounds, we’ll talk about the Coliseum, we’ll talk about some of
the other big projects. We’re also gonna spend
a bunch of time talking about some of the real
neighborhood level and, really even,
house level efforts that Housing and
Community Development is working on right now. But certainly the headline
is the fairgrounds. $160 million proposal to TDZ,
Tourism Development Zone, funded off tax dollars and
tourist dollars is the idea. Why this plan? This plan… There’s so many parts to it,
it’s hard to say “the plan,” but the centerpiece certainly
is the youth sports complex. Let’s start there. Why youth sports? – So youth sports
is a couple reasons. One, we feel like it’s a great
thing for this community, it’s something that can generate
a lot of economic activity. It also provides an
opportunity for our local youth to have a facility where
you can do various things. As a part of the
youth sports facility, we also programmed
an indoor track. We have four universities, LeMoyne-Owen, Rhodes, CBU
and University of Memphis, that all have
indoor track teams, yet they don’t have an indoor
track in the city of Memphis so they practice outside and
they compete in other locations where they do have
indoor track facilities. So things like that providing
a new asset for our community to be able to utilize. – And a lot of this,
as a tourism effort, is youth sports where people
play competitive sports, sometimes very expensive. We talked about it
last week on the show, we’ve talked about
it a number of times, so it might be
competitive volleyball, competitive basketball,
and there’s travel… What parents maybe know
as travel basketball or travel volleyball. That stuff’s really
expensive, right? So there are fees associated
with teams using the facilities and there’s also, you
know, the travel expenses so you get into the
potential of a, what, a hotel and some retail
on the side as well. – Yeah. As I mentioned, there’s there
a lot of economic activity that’s tied to youth sports and so you do have
some expensive pay-to-play-type leagues. Our goal is to be
able to recruit those that are traveling across
the country to Memphis. We are a strong tourism
destination anyway. We feel like having this
amenity can help us, but we also want
to build an asset that we can use for
our local community. So we wanna program some
things in the facility that’s intentional
about how we are able to let our local youth
be able to engage. – We’ll bring up some
maps and renderings as we talk about this, and the maps kind
of outline the area, the former Libertyland
site, I think, is one of the big new
areas of development, and we can see here from
the left to the right, there’s Tobey Park
up in the left, which we’ll talk about in a bit, and the bright green
area is right on Central, right near the
Children’s Museum, where some of the
retail might go, hotels, and then to the bottom right
there, you see the Coliseum and then the proposal for… That’s really the heart
of the new construction. Is that fair to say? – (Paul)
Yeah, that’s fair to say. One of the things, the
development strategy, is that when we
looked at this site was to try to concentrate as much of the
development as possible in that southwestern
quadrant of the site, because that is where
Libertyland used to be. We know that parking is a
significant concern on the site, so we tried to concentrate
new development in that space where there wasn’t an
opportunity to park previously before Libertyland
was torn down. – (Eric)
Okay, Bill Dries. – Paul, before
this administration began looking at
this again in July, there was a really hard sell on the sports complex
as a tournament site that you’re gonna have a lot
of families coming here to see, and it was such a hard sell that I think it
created some pushback with people saying,
“wait a minute. This should be a site
for Memphians as well.” Part of your presentation
this past week involved countering that to say this will also be a facility
for Memphians as well. – Right. So, yes, we heard
that loud and clear, that the community
wants to make sure that this is
something that’s built not only for tourists
and generating that economic activity but something
that Memphians can benefit from. So we tried to do some
intentional things on the site. You’ll notice that
we plugged in space for basketball courts,
these are covered pavilions, so while they serve
as basketball courts they can also serve as
spaces for family picnics. You can do
temporary activations, similar to things
you’ve seen on Riverside where they did an
ice skating rink. You can do cool
things in that space that allow for
community activity. We also programmed funding
as part of our wish list to make improvements
to the Pipkin Building which could serve as a
community gathering space. We are looking to do our first
community benefits agreement. So this is a legal document that would legally
obligate the city on each of these developments for specific amenities that
would be tied to the community, so things like local hiring, things like offering free
or reduced price usage for the community
at certain times, because this facility is going
to be hopping on the weekends but, during the week,
there are opportunities to program things for
the local community where you can see
direct benefits. And then some of
the other things you might have heard
in our proposal was to improve
connections to the site, connect to the Green Line, to make improvements to the
old Melrose High School, and some people I’ve seen
say, “why would you do that?” Because as we
invest in something this big in our community, we’re trying to think about how can we have a bigger impact
at the neighborhood scale, and there’s nothing
more impactful than taking away a
blighted structure that means a lot
to the community but has sat vacant for 30 years. And if this TDZ can
help impact that, we feel like it’s
the right thing to do to try to tie it in in some way. – On the space where
this complex would go that is the old
Libertyland site, it’s also the space where you
had about 2,200 parking spaces that are used during
the football games. So how do you deal with that? Because you’ve got a 500
space parking garage, but that’s for really
the buildings that you’re gonna build on
the Central Avenue frontage. – Yeah, yeah. So parking is a significant
challenge and we know that. We are having conversations with the stakeholders
that use the space, Fred Jones and his team, the
AutoZone Liberty Bowl group, as well as the
University of Memphis, and they’re all concerned and
we understand those concerns. We’re trying to figure out are there ways we can look
at traffic management? Because parking is one concern, but the other concern is how
do you manage the traffic and the flow of traffic
during game days? Are there ways for
us to re-stripe the existing parking spaces where you can
maximize those spaces, given that they aren’t
used all the time? You can actually reduce the size so you can get more
spaces on the lot. And then are there opportunities
for us to do shuttles and things of that nature? I’ve heard some of the concerns, “people in Memphis
don’t use shuttles,” but we have to start
thinking like a major city and thinking about new
and innovative ways to address challenges. We’re not the only
community that has a stadium that doesn’t have a lot
of parking around it, but we can come and address
this challenge head-on. – And how many, there are… I’ve heard people say, you know, the events that happen at
Liberty Bowl are great. You listed them, Tigers
Football is now a ranked team and generating a
whole lot more traffic and everyone loves that, but there are only 10
football games, give or take, a year at that site. So that’s part of that
balancing act, I assume. You have to have space and
a plan for those big events, but then you’ve got another
340-something days a year that the space can be kind
of completely not used. – Yeah, that’s absolutely
our perspective is, and I don’t wanna minimize the
importance of those events. I mean, when you get
50-60,000 people in one space, that’s an important
thing for our community and we want that to be
able to continue to happen, but we have to figure out ways
to maximize this opportunity that’s right here in
the middle of our city, and how can we make
it bigger and better? – We probably should
have opened with this, but there’s so many parts. Let’s back up a little bit
and talk about what a TDZ is and how this will be funded. So if it’s $160 million overall through a tourism
development zone proposal, that’s a proposal, and you’re gonna correct
me where I get this wrong, it goes to the
state for approval and basically says the sales
tax dollars in a given area that normally would go to the
state and stay at the state come back to the
local community, and they’ve been used
all over the state. I was really struck
in the presentation. I didn’t realize, not just the big ticket
items like Bass Pro or the Nashville
Convention Center, but convention centers of,
really large convention centers in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee,
Chattanooga and other places, these have been used for
hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in other
areas of the state. That’s the idea here, not
property tax revenue, not… The city’s just gonna
float a bunch of bonds and hope to pay it back
some way or another. – Yeah, absolutely right. I mean, this is a
unique opportunity for us to take sales taxes that would have otherwise
gone to the state of Tennessee and use it for something that’s
going to make a difference right here in our community. And the way it works is
you take the sales taxes that are over and
beyond a baseline year, and that growth in
sales taxes is used to pay for the bonds that
you issue for the project, and so we are excited about
having this opportunity. This is actually the last TDZ that can be approved by
the state of Tennessee because they actually did
away with the program. We submitted our letter
of interest before 2007, which was their cutoff date. And so it makes sense for us to figure out how
to use this tool, and that actually goes
back to my earlier point around youth sports. Why youth sports? We also have to make sure
that what we invest in is a tourism amenity. We can’t take the funds
and build something that the state would deem to be a local government
responsibility. So if we just want
to build a park, we wouldn’t be able to use
the TDZ to build a park. – Two things and
I’ll go back to Bill, but just again so we can
get grounded in this, the overall area of the TDZ
is kind of a sprawling area, it reaches all the
way up to Crosstown, reaches then down into Orange
Mound and other neighborhoods. Why that shape? And it’s 2.97 square miles,
which is important also. So why does it reach
those areas it reaches? And why 2.97 miles? – So the state’s law
says that it must be… The maximum amount
is three miles so we did as big as
we could possibly get. And the reason that it
has this amoeba-like shape is because we wanted
to try to carve in as many sales tax-generating
areas as possible because the idea with the TDZ is that you will build something that’s gonna draw a
large number of people. Those people will spend
money in various locations and our goal is to
try to figure out where will they spend
the bulk of their money? And so that’s why you see areas like Overton Square and
Cooper Young carved in, but we also wanted to carve in the Lamar-Airways
Shopping Center because our hope is that
we will also see investment and dollars being
spent there as well. – And of it, and this
is different in my mind than other proposals
I’ve seen in the past, $40 million is outside
the fairgrounds, right? It’s in neighborhoods,
it’s about access, it’s about other… And then we’ll talk in a
minute about Tobey Field, which is sort of, you know,
it’s next to it but outside, so the scope of it
seemed different than some of the other proposals that were very, very
and exclusively focused, it seemed to me,
on the fairgrounds. But back to Bill. – In the money for the
Liberty Bowl improvements, Council member Frank Colvett
has talked in particular about maybe improving the load-in
access to the Liberty Bowl. Is any of that included
in those improvements? – So the improvements
that we outlined, right now they’re
still pretty broad. We’re looking at press
boxes and media boxes and things of that nature, and I think it’s
important that, you know, some people scoffed at
investment at the Liberty Bowl but that’s also a
tourism amenity. Back when, I think it was
Arkansas and Texas A&M, I can’t remember exactly
which teams played, but a couple of years ago when
they had the Liberty Bowl, that was one of the highest
grossing Liberty Bowl games we’ve ever had in this city and the economic impact
rippled all across the town. We want to make sure that
we invest in a stadium where we can still
continue to bring that type of economic
activity to this community. – For the Coliseum decision,
let’s get into that. The Coliseum coalition
had a plan saying make this part of the
sports tournament complex. That didn’t pencil out. – Right, we certainly
looked at it. That was initially the way
that I thought it could work. I thought that it could
work if we plan it as a part of that facility, but when you start looking
at the actual costs and what it took to
renovate the building and, whether it’s $25
million or $40 million, the youth sports does
not bring enough events to that structure to
operate it in a manner where it would not have a
deficit on an annual basis. Just for comparison’s sake, the Landers Center operates
at about a 3.5 year deficit, $3.5 million deficit annually. And they fill that with taxes that they assess
in their community. – Property taxes… – (Paul)
It’s a sales tax. – Sales tax. – But we don’t have that luxury. We don’t have a luxury
of having that tax that can manage
the operating side. TDZ funds can’t be used
for operational expenses. And so when people hear
these dollar amounts they have this image that we are looking to pull
the wool over their eyes, but we are exploring
every way possible. I think that for the
Coliseum we need to explore are there options for
other adaptive re-uses other than an arena? – And to clarify, you
all are putting… A couple things just to clarify. You all are putting half a
million dollars, give or take, in to mothball it, make
sure it’s not leaking, so that you can continue a
conversation down the road. We have some renderings
and we have to, you know, renderings
are just ideas, of what the youth sports
complex could look like. And one of the things that
you, the point you made, Kevin Kane has made this point
when he’s been on the show, the head of the CVB, that yeah, in the
Coliseum for youth sports, you could fit, what, three
or four basketball courts, something like that. These facilities have sometimes
15, 20 basketball courts. – (Paul)
8 to 12 basketball courts double the size in
volleyball courts. – (Eric)
That’s right, yeah. – And there are
countless other ways to use the space. It’s 150,000 square feet
of column-free space, so it’s much more flexible. And as much as I care
about the Coliseum, I graduated from the
building as well, I have… – (Eric)
Your high school graduation? – Yeah, my high
school graduation. I have memories of Memphis
Wrestling, Koko B. Ware, all these other figures that
were great and fantastic and really a part of my youth. We want to figure out
a way to make it work but right now it
doesn’t pencil out and so what the city is
saying is not “tear it down,” we’re saying lets
invest some money to make sure that
it’s sustained. We have a cadre of other items that we think we can invest in that will have an immediate
impact on the community, and we can continue to work on
what happens on the Coliseum. – Is it possible
that once other parts of a re-developed fairgrounds
are up and running, that you get some
proposals at that point that aren’t on the table, probably aren’t even in
the picture at this point, for the Coliseum? – Yeah, I think the thing that
helps the Coliseum the most is having assets around
it that generate activity because you’re bringing
more eyes to this asset. I think that you
will have many more outside private interests that
are willing to invest funds if they see something
that’s working in very close proximity like
the youth sports facility. I think that we just need
to be patient as a community and try to work to come
to a solution on it. – Let’s go to two other
main parts of the plan, ’cause there is so much more
going on in your office that we’re gonna
try to get to here, but just sticking with the
plan for two more parts, and people can go to,
what’s the website? – MemphisFairgrounds.com – And they can make
comments, is that correct? – They can make comments, they can see all
of the information. Everything that we discover we’re trying to
put it out online. We’re trying to
make this process as transparent as possible. – Okay, so let’s talk a
little bit about the retail. Back in the day, people may
remember your predecessor, Robert Lipscomb back in
the Wharton administration, maybe even before that, plans for a huge retail space. This is a slimmed down
idea along Central in the green area
that people can see that’s right next to
the Children’s Museum. What’s the concept there? – So, the concept is retail that compliments
sports, youth sports. We don’t know what the
retail will look like because we do not have a
developer in the fold yet. We are looking at
issuing an RFQ, a request for qualifications, just to see what type of
interest we might have in developers that
would like to be there, in the next couple of weeks. But until we get that
developer on the hook, we don’t know
actually what goes. We know we would
like to have a hotel. We know that we would like
to have some type of use that provides mouthpieces
and shin guards and things like that
that youth sports… – (Eric)
And also restaurants for people traveling, whether
they’re coming to Liberty Bowl- – Right, but we also
wanna be careful that it’s not competing,
direct competition, with Overton Square and Cooper
Young and these other areas that already have very
well-established restaurants and things of that nature. – And also in that area,
there’s a proposal for a new, well, so many points to make, but a new gym for Maxine
Smith Steam Academy, is that correct? – (Paul)
Yeah. – And potentially a little
more classroom space. – Right, so the idea
was to relocate the gym and try to utilize some of
that frontage along Central for commercial use. One of the things that, when we met with some of the school administration’s
representatives, one of the things
that they talked about was the fact that you have a 600-person waiting
list at Maxine Smith, and there’s actually two schools that are located
in that building: Maxine Smith, which is
a junior high school, and Middle College,
which is a high school. And so, being able
to expand capacity was something that they
wanted to be able to do and so we felt like, if we
build a commercial structure, there may be opportunities
to do something on the upper floors that
compliments the schools. – And then the last, not really the last but the
last piece we’ll focus on today, is Tobey Field, which
is just across the way. Talk about what
is proposed there. – So the proposal there is to
improve the existing fields, to relocate the dog park and make way for a
BMX bike facility that will be at a
competition grade. I know that we have
one at Shelby Farms that’s being utilized
more for recreational use, I think they do have some
small competitions there. Part of the thinking there was: is there a way to
add another amenity that wouldn’t be too expensive
but could also draw tourism. And so as we met with some of
our consultants on that issue, those that come for BMX,
biking competitions, tend to have longer stays. – (Eric)
Last couple points on this, that, for all these, you
mentioned private developers on the retail side. But with the youth sports
complex, I assume with BMX, this is not Paul Young
and Mayor Strickland running these facilities. There are contract entities
that are in charge. That’s the idea and that’s
what’s done in other cities. – Yeah, absolutely. We would definitely
have outside support. We’re working closely
with our Parks division. They’re probably gonna
have a much stronger say because these are park lands, although Housing and
Community Development has kind of been coordinating
the development side, I think we’ll lend
to their expertise on how we move forward
with management agreements and things of that nature. – And the last thing
on that note is, and maybe people couldn’t
see it on the map, but the Green Line
would be extended. The idea so that the Green Line would reach all the way
into the fairgrounds. – Right. So it’ll be extended
down Flicker Street and so we want to pull
that into the fairgrounds. – We’ll shift gears from
the biggest of projects, and we’ll skip over
some of the things that you’re also involved in like the Pinch and South City
and the convention center, ’cause I think we’ll just
get you back another time to talk about these things-
– Glad to. – but after you were on
the show last time, you mentioned to me some of
these real neighborhood level, and almost house-by-house
level programs that HCD is also involved in. – (Paul)
Right. – It’s not just doing
these big mega-projects, it’s actually neighborhood by
neighborhood, house by house. Where do you wanna start with some of the things
that you all are working on? – Well, I think
it’s just important that we make sure that
the community knows that while we are
involved and we’re excited about some of these
major projects that are bigger scales,
bigger dollar figures, we still do work at
the neighborhood level, and I would like for
that to really be our sweet spot as a division. We have a number of programs… We recently announced our
Weatherization Program where individuals are able to
have their home weatherized, which essentially means making
it more energy efficient. So we have a lot of
need in this community in terms of the
quality of housing. I often say we don’t have an
affordable housing problem, we’re having a quality
affordable housing problem. We have a number of
units that are available but there are so many
that are in disrepair. We also have a lead program, where we’re able to go into
homes and remediate lead. It’s part of a
broader focus for us where we want to focus on
health and housing and… – (Eric)
And we have some photos of where you all have
improved some houses. Just before and after. – (Paul)
Before and after pictures. Part of what we want to do
is mitigate those impacts. We want to see kids healthier. We have a collaborative
partnership with the health department,
with Le Bonheur, with University of Memphis, there’s a number of
different stakeholders that are all putting
their minds around how can we have a bigger impact, not just on that one unit
but at a systems level? How can we improve asthma rates? How can we improve
lead poisoning? All of these things matter and it’s because of our
places and where people live and how can we
touch those units, and so we’re trying
to think holistically about how we do that. – One of the efforts in this
vein, Paul, is Mason Village, which is under
construction as we speak, it’s a project with the
Church of God in Christ with Mason Temple
just down the block from where these
homes are being built. Talk about that a little bit because it’s built on where
Crump Fowler homes was, the public development
housing was at one time, but it’s a really
different approach than just build as
many units as you can and cram people in there. – (Paul)
It’s a 77-unit development. We’re really excited
about the partnership with Church of God in Christ and John Stanley, who’s
serving as the developer, the John Stanley Company. We want to think
about how can we bring quality affordable
housing to our community. You know that this is in very
close proximity to South City so we hope that, as we
replace units at Foote Homes, that we’ll also have
new units coming online over there as well. So we want to see that
type of new development ripple into the side south of
Lamar, which is where this is, and deeper into South Memphis. – And this is rental property
that is scaled for families. – (Paul)
Exactly. – These are not small units, cram everything
that you can into it and that’s what you’ve got. – Right. I think the bulk of them are
actually 3-bedroom units. I don’t have a unit
mix in front of me, but it’s intended
for large families. We want people to
occupy our core. That’s part of the
mayor’s strategy, is to revitalize the core, find ways to grow our population inside the city of Memphis core, and then we feel like
that will ripple out into the other areas
across the community. – South City is the big
re-development of a housing project to the
south of FedEx Forum that we’ve talked about
with you on the show and has been the
last of the big ones, but the rendering
we had up there, and we should point out
that that was a rendering… Also Cavalry Creek, is
that a similar sort of… – Cavalry Creek is different. It’s 61 units,
single family units, that’s being developed
in the Raleigh area. By the time this airs, we will
have had a ribbon cutting, and we’re really excited about bringing some
quality affordable housing in partnership with MHL. – How much of this is local
money versus federal money? With not enough time to
answer that question. – The bulk of it
is federal money, federal funds that come
through our division to support these
types of projects, but some of it is local, we used CIP funds
for Mason Village. – I think that is all the
time we have here, Paul. You have a lot going
on around the city. There was some other things
like South City and the Pinch, and some of them we were
going to get to but didn’t. – (Paul)
Yeah, we got a lot going on. – But we’ll get you back, I
appreciate you being here. Thank you, Bill, and thank
you all for joining us. Join us again next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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