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Director of Planning & Development: downtown investments have "potential to make big impacts"

While downtown Memphis developments are at a standstill, none of the money is coming out of taxpayer dollars and the projects will make headway in about a year.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With multiple developments in the works for downtown Memphis, the timeline on the projects isn’t set in stone but there is a rough outline so consumers can know when to expect more movement, particularly on Union Avenue. 

Memphis 3.0 was created to be a guideline to grow and improve the city.

John Zeanah, the Memphis and Shelby County Director of Division of Planning and Development, said Memphis 3.0 is a baseline of where new developments will have the most impact.

Memphis 3.0 "identifies over 100 places that are called 'anchors,' which are centers of communities and neighborhoods all across Memphis where we hope to see new growth happen,” Zeanah said.

One of those anchors is downtown. With the developments happening and in the planning phases on Union Avenue, the Pinch District and surrounding St. Jude, the timeline on these developments making their way into reality is unclear for multiple reasons.

“Certainly with COVID and the disruption that caused, but now with rising interest rates and what that means for access to capital for some of these big projects to be able to move forward,” Zeanah said.

Those disruptions impacted two major developments – “The Walk,” set to be on Union Avenue and The Pinch District, which hasn’t yet been finalized but is expected to have a multi-phase reconstruction to bring life to the district. 

Both Zeanah and Paul Young, President of the Downtown Memphis Commission agree these developments will elevate downtown.

“The Walk and investments in The Pinch have the potential to make big impacts on our downtown,” Zeanah said.

“There will be activated structures with people living in them, there will be new businesses, new hotels,” Young said. “All of these things make our downtown vibrant, which is really, really, important as we think about how to strengthen our region.”

While these projects are at a brief standstill, both Zeanah and Young stress the funds for these projects are coming from the developers, not residents.

“We modified the closing deadline for the pilot,” Young said. “When you get a pilot, it’s essentially a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. So, the current property taxes will continue to be paid once the pilot is actually activated."

Young continued: "Then they will pay the current property taxes plus 25 percent of the new value. So, there’s no cash money that’s given to the developers. So there is no money that is coming out of city and county coffers.”

As of now, there is not a set date for the completion of the active projects, however Young said The Walk has a18 months to begin construction so the community can expect groundbreaking toward the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024.

Once ground is broken, Young expects a two-to-three-year building timeframe for the development. Downtown Memphis Commission is still working with the Pinch Project development team, but if all goes well, they expect The Pinch to be on a similar timeline as the walk.

“They’re both in areas that are really along the periphery of where we’ve seen, I think, the most activity in our downtown,” Zeanah said. “So, the ability to expand that activity to new areas of downtown, bring in more people who live, who work, who are visiting and all the activities that go along with that, stand to have a big impact on not just our downtown, but our city.”

ABC24 reached out to developers Tom Intrator and David Dlugolenski to speak with them about their projects and have not received a response.

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