by Toby Sells
Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb provided the council with a funding outline for the $15 million and claimed none of that money will come from the city's general fund but rather federal dollars captured by the city.
The project was approved unanimously by those council members casting votes. Council members Harold Collins and Wanda Halbert abstained from the vote. Council member Kemp Conrad recused himself from the vote as his real estate firm provides some services for the project.
But the vote came only after a lengthy debate on the issue Tuesday. Council members supporting the project said it was crucial to the development of Memphis’ inner city. Those against it said Crosstown redevelopment is a “great project,” but argued too many questions lingered over the deal’s details.
“I understand the late day and the communication problems but those are ongoing issues and we should not let them get in the way of this opportunity,” council member Shea Flinn said. “At some point, we have to side with our dreams and ambitions instead of siding with our fears.”
Still, some said too much information was given too close to the vote and they lobbied to delay the decision for two weeks. Council members were given a presentation on the Crosstown project in March. But the final details of the project's funding were only given to them Tuesday afternoon during the council’s executive session.
Council member Harold Collins said asking the council to make the decision with so little time and information was “disrespectful.” But a formal motion to delay the matter for two weeks was voted down by a majority of council members during the full council meeting Tuesday evening.
“I don’t think it is fair to ask this board for a vote on a $15 million project when you only gave us (the details) to us right after you presented it," Collins said.
Dozens of Crosstown supporters clad in red "Crosstown Collaborative" T-shirts crowded the council chambers Tuesday evening, and they erupted in applause after the vote was recorded.
The city’s $15 million will fund infrastructure needs and site cleanup at the old Sears Crosstown building in the midst of the Evergreen, Vollinitine-Evergreen and Speedway Terrace neighborhoods.
In October, the Shelby County Land Use Control Board approved the redevelopment of the 1.5 million square-foot building into a “vertical urban village” that could become the home to healthcare clinics, a school, and more.
The total project cost is estimated to be $175 million, with the majority of that money coming from the building's founding partners — Church Health Center, Methodist Healthcare, Gestalt Community Schools, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, ALSAC, Memphis Teacher Residency, Rhodes College, and Crosstown Arts.