Memphis City Council Seems Initially Supportive of Crosstown Redevelopment

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The Crosstown Development Team, which is spearheading the redevelopment of the abandoned 1.5 million square foot Sears Crosstown building, presented their plan to transform the former Sears headquarters into a "vertical urban village" to the Memphis City Council's executive committee today.

The founding partners — ALSAC, the Church Health Center, Methodist Healthcare, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Gestalt Community Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, and Crosstown Arts — will fill in 600,000 square feet of the building, and the rest will be a combination of residential property, retail, and arts.

The team has asked the city to help them fill in a $15 million funding gap for the $175 million project. Most of the redevelopment is being funded by private contributions, grants, and federal tax credits, but some help is needed from the city. The city's contribution will pay for blight removal on the site and demolition of some parts of building and parking garage. Robert Lipscomb, Memphis Housing and Community Development and MHA director, said the city plans to find alternative sources of funding that don't require dipping into the city's general fund.

"We have not committed to the $15 million. What we have committed to is helping find the $15 million," Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb proposed the introduction of a new city Center for Policy Change, Design, and Development (also called "The Studio") that would specialize in sourcing alternative funding for projects that approach city government for assistance. He said he'll begin meeting with city division directors to discuss Crosstown funding options next week.

Despite the questions concerning how the city will help pay for the project, Memphis City Council members seemed largely supportive.

"It's critical that we get in-fill development," said council member Shea Flinn. "We have to do what we have to do or this city will not survive. The fact that such five-star [founding] partners have stepped up for this project is nothing short of a miracle."

Construction is expected to begin at the Sears Crosstown building later this year with a projected move-in date of 2016.

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