Another Bass Pro Twist

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Are Bass Pro Shops' eyes bigger than its appetite?

It would seem so after the retailer indicated that it will not finalize its financing for The Pyramid and Pinch District project in December as scheduled. The upshot is that financing will rise from $110 million to $125 million.

The City Council was supposed to take up the financing package on November 23rd but the item was never set on the agenda. Instead, a council notice Thursday says $42 million in interest rate-subsidized Build American Bonds that was part of the package is being shifted to the Industrial Development Board and, potentially, to other projects. Or the bonds could go unused given the late change. The federal Build America Bonds program expires this year.

That item is scheduled for a hearing in a council committee December 7th. The council has only two more meetings this year. It's rare for much to get done in the final sessions because actions have to be approved on three readings, which usually means multiple meetings.

When Bass Pro took its financing package to the Center City Revenue Finance Corporation last month, it contemplated the possibility of not using the Build American Bonds. The application said that would raise the total financing needed to $125 million from $110 million.

City Councilman Bill Morrison and City Finance Director Roland McElrath discussed the matter Thursday afternoon.

"All this does is give the IDB the ability to issue the bonds if the projects pass scrutiny," Morrison said.

Two projects under consideration are Poag & McEwen's Highland Row development near the University of Memphis and a hotel at Fourth and Linden.

Morrison said Bass Pro is still a go, and that the financing will be completed by February 7th, albeit at a higher cost if the subsidized bond program expires. The money is supposed to come from tax rebates within a tourism development zone.

"We fuly expect this project to hit the ground running," Morrison said. "We just didn't want to lose $42 million."

In an indication of either lukewarm interest or uncertainty about the long-range prospects for The Pyramid, five new condos across Front Street in the Harbor Lights building sold Thursday afternoon at auction for prices ranging from $57,000 plus commission for a one-bedroom unit to $137,500 for a three-bedroom unit.

"You know what's possibly going in across the road," said auctioneer Benny Taylor. "I can't commit to it but I can tell you it's smellin' real good."

"We got mobile home prices here Benny," said one of his assistants.

The crowd of 50 or so did not seem overly impressed.

Read the Flyer's recent cover story on the Bass Pro project here.

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