Last Wednesday, we held our annual Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis party at Imperial Lanes. Winners were honored. Alcohol was consumed. Harlan T. Bobo, Mark Edgar Stuart, the Cretin Stompers, and the Mighty Souls Brass Band played some ditties. And a few ladies took off their clothes (okay, technically, they were professional burlesque dancers, but who's counting?).To view all of the party pics, check out the full album on the Memphis Flyer's Facebook page.
Memphis was one of seven cities recognized for its focus on job creation, economic growth, and crime reduction in a new report released on Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The "Enterprising Cities" report notes that the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team's "clean it, activate it, sustain it" strategy has led to an increase in business activity, redevelopment, and economic vitality in certain core Memphis neighborhoods. Since 2011, the team has focused its efforts on revitalizing three areas — Cleveland/Madison, South Memphis, and Binghampton — through a variety of strategies that include 25 Square (neighborhood blight reduction 25 blocks at a time), MemFIX (community festivals), MemSHOP (pop-up shops), and helping small business owners grow their existing businesses.
"If you look north toward Broad or toward Stax or Overton Square, that used to be nothing but plywood," said Mayor A C Wharton at a press conference on the report today at Splash Creative in the Broad Avenue Arts District.
David Wayne Brown, president of Splash Creative and president of the Historic Broad Business Association, said 25 new businesses had located in the Broad Avenue Arts District since he moved to the area in 2007, several years before the community's revitalization began. Brown said that $4.9 million had been invested in public infrastructure over the last few years, including money devoted to building a two-way cycle track from Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline.
Six other cities were named in the U.S. Chamber's "Enterprising Cities" report — Dayton, Ohio; Irving, Texas; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Antonio, Texas; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Members of the Riverside Rollin' 90's Neighborhood Crips (R90) can be arrested for so much as appearing in public together, among a list of other activities, in a 4.6-mile "safety zone" in the Riverview-Kansas neighborhood. The zone was established by a court injunction from the Shelby County Environmental Court and announced at a press conference in front of a gang-tagged, blighted home on Farrington Street in South Memphis.
The injunction came as a result of a nuisance petition against the R90 gang filed by District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris. That petition was filed following a 10-month investigation into the gang's activities in the Riverview-Kansas community by the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU). Founded last year, the MGU is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the D.A.'s office, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, and the Memphis Police Department.
If any known member of the R90 gang is spotted in the safety zone — bordered by South Parkway East, West Mallory, I-55, and Florida Street — doing any of the following, he or she can be arrested and charged with contempt of court:
1. Associating with other R90 gang members in public, excluding at school or in church
2. Intimidating people who have been known witnesses to R90 gang activities.
3. Possessing guns or illegal weapons.
4. Defacing private property ("tagging") or possessing tools for graffiti
5. Possessing, selling, or using drugs or paraphernalia.
6. Acting as a lookout to warn other gang members of the presence of law enforcement
7. Possessing open containers of alcohol in public
8. Trespassing on private property
9. Forcibly recruiting new gang members
10. Preventing gang members from leaving the gang through threats to strike or assault that person
11. Breaking any other law
Special agent Michael P. Knight, public information officer for the ATF Nashville Field Division, did say there's nothing to stop these gang members from taking their activities elsewhere, but he said the MGU would pursue injunctions such as this in other neighborhoods where gang activity is present. He said this "safety zone" makes that 4.6-mile area better for the 4,000-some residents who live there.
The nuisance petition included photos of gang graffiti on about 30 buildings and dwellings in the "safety zone." Today, after the press conference announcing the injunction, teams began pressure-washing and painting over the graffiti.
During the 10-month investigation in this area, there were 1,200 calls to police with at least one shooting per day. Within a week of filing the petition, four people were shot near the intersection of Farrington and Hollowell, close to where the press conference was held on Monday. During the investigation, some residents told officers that they did not allow their children to play outside for fear of gang violence, and some admitted to sleeping under their beds to take cover from frequent gunfire.
R90 members will be offered a way to opt out of the injunction, but they must declare in writing that they are a reformed member of the gang, and they must renounce their gang affiliation for life. They must file a motion for the court to dismiss, and they cannot have any arrests on their records for the past two years.
"If you are in this gang and looking for a way out other than dying, this is your chance," Weirich announced at the press conference.
The city is set to receive a minimum of $1 million in rent each year from Bass Pro Shops' new Pyramid store for the initial lease with possibilities of as much as $2.5 million in rent annually, depending on revenue from the store.
That's according to a memo sent to Mayor A C Wharton from Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipcomb on Monday. The $1 million figure sets the "floor," while the $2.5 is the estimated "ceiling" for annual rent revenue. Bass Pro has a 20-year lease with the city for the Pyramid with seven consecutive renewal periods of five years following that initial lease term.
"With the addition of the Rooftop Facility and Hotel to the rent calculation, $1.5 to $1.9 million is a very conservative working estimate for the annual rent revenue for the initial lease term of 20 years," reads the memo.
The rooftop facility and hotel will feature an exterior glass "skyride," a 10,000 square-foot rooftop restaurant and bar, and glass observation decks on the west and southern faces of the Pyramid. Construction of that project goes to bid on October 15th. Construction for the hotel and the retail store goes to bid on October 10th. Construction should be completed by August 31st, 2014, and the store is expected to open in December of that year.
On Thursday, September 19th, the city’s homeless will be able to access services and resources to help eliminate the barriers that keep them on the streets during the fourth installment of Project Homeless Connect Memphis.
The one-day event will take place inside the Memphis Cook Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Primarily targeting unsheltered homeless individuals or those who live in emergency shelters, Project Homeless Connect pairs each guest with a volunteer who helps them access services and resources for housing, jobs, medical screenings, and legal advice at one of the numerous booths at the event. Those who are unstably housed — living with friends or relatives — are also welcome to attend from 1 to 3 p.m.
Considering that September is National Voter Registration month, the event will place some focus on restoring voting rights for the homeless. Representatives of "street court," an access-to-justice program that provides voting rights restoration to people experiencing homelessness, will work with event attendees. "Street Court" will also help provide access to legal consultation and criminal court cost waivers at the event.
“[We help] them get court costs off their record that blocks them from getting a driver’s license or from opening a bank account or leasing a rental apartment,” said Chris Martin of the Shelby County Public Defender's Office. “These are very serious barriers to their reentry into the mainstream of society. They can’t get off the streets if they can’t open a bank account, get a driver’s license, or lease an apartment. These court costs are standing in the way of a lot of people being able to do that. So we wanted to provide this access to justice program to help them overcome that.”
Martin said "Street Court" has served 75 to 100 guests at each Project Homeless Connect Memphis event since 2012. "Street Court" is collaboratively spearheaded by The Shelby County Public Defender, District Attorney General, Judge Karen Massey, and Judge Robert Childers.
Project Homeless Connect is in need of volunteers to assist homeless guests as they access the services they need at different booths. Volunteers can also help hand out food, clothing and assist with the different service areas. Those interested in volunteering can go here for more information. Training for volunteers will be available at 4 p.m. today (September 18th) at the Cook Convention Center (255 N. Main St.).
Homelessness has declined in the city since the Mayor's Action Plan to End Homelessness has been implemented. In 2012, 2,076 people were homeless on an average day, according to Katie Kitchin, director of the the Community Alliance. In 2013, so far, the average count is 1,816 people homeless on an average day.
Project Homeless Connect is a national effort to provide basic services and housing options for the homeless.
Another fitness-related business is moving into Overton Square. Bikram Yoga, which has operated a studio in East Memphis since 2005, has signed a lease for its Bikram Hot Yoga Memphis in the square.
The studio, which will open at 2105 Madison, will offer hot yoga, deep tissue massage, and Ayurvedic therapy. It will join Delta Groove Yoga, Cardio Barre, and Breakaway Running in the fitness-focused, redeveloped Overton Square. Bikram and Cardio Barre will both be located on the second floor above the old Palm Court and ice skating rink area.
Bikram yoga, also called hot yoga, is a 26-posture sequence practiced in a heated room. It is believed to promote weight loss, increase energy, reduce pain, and improve mental clarity.
This lease brings Overton Square's occupancy to 78 percent.
Last week, Chancellor Walter Evans upheld the sale of the Nineteenth Century Club to its current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Shon Lin, thus paving the way for demolition.
Now Memphis Heritage is circulating an online petition asking supporters to pledge a boycott against any businesses the Lins may build and operate on the Nineteenth Century Club property. The petition says someone named David Wachtel of Nashville has made a formal offer to the Lins to purchase and reuse the Nineteenth Century Club building "as an upscale restaurant and event venue."
There has been no word on whether the Lins will take Wachtel up on his offer, but if someone else were to purchase the property from them and reuse the building rather than demolish, the Memphis Heritage petition says it would support whatever business locates there.
As of this writing, the petition had 1,058 signatures with a goal of reaching 2,000.
Police have discovered a body at Earnestine and Hazel's bar on South Main in downtown Memphis. Sources are saying the body is that of the bar's owner Russell George, and a Memphis Police Department spokesperson said that "it appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound."
As police investigated the scene this morning, staff from the restaurant, famous for its greasy Soul Burgers, stood outside the building. A few people appeared to be crying. Earnestine & Hazel's has been open at the corner of G.E. Patterson and S. Main since 1993. There is no word on how George's death will affect the bar's future. In July, the bar was named one of the best dive bars in the country by CNN.
Marketing and advertising agency archer>malmo added an indoor bicycle parking "garage" for employees as part of a larger renovation project on its fourth floor at the Cotton Exchange Building. The new design is a response to the rapid growth of bike and pedestrian infrastructure in Memphis, according to archer>malmo account manager Sarah Baker.
The garage space has hooks on the wall for lighter bikes and a parking area on the floor for heavier cruiser models. It can accommodate up to 12 bikes.
"The people who work in that space helped design it, and many of them live in Midtown or downtown and ride their bikes to work everyday," said Russ Williams, CEO of archer>malmo. "We thought it was a totally fantastic way to use that space."
Additionally, the company purchased a communal cruiser bike for employees to share for downtown errands. It's been available for employee use for about one week.
"I haven't used it yet, but next time I need to go north on Main, I will," Williams said.
She gave you 365 things to do in Memphis (eat all the cheese at Bari, frolic in the Main Street Mall fountain) and at least 52 reasons to love the Bluff City (Tony Allen's Twitter account, cheap parking). And she uncovered the secret Target on Colonial.
Now Memphis' number one fan Kerry Crawford is leaving her post as "I Love Memphis" blogger and social media strategist at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau effective September 30th. Crawford posted her goodbye announcement today. Here's an excerpt:
When the CVB hired me as their social media specialist in August, 2009, I had no idea what I was doing. All I had was this idea for a website that featured all of the great, overlooked parts of Memphis — the parts that make this city so great. Four years later, it’s that, and so much more. This site has taken over my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Running I Love Memphis has been the most rewarding, challenging, intense and inspiring thing I’ve ever done. I had a really great time. The best time.
But it’s time for me to make room for other good things to happen. I have an amazing opportunity to work for myself, which is something I’ve wanted to do forever, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m going to be doing freelance digital content strategy, social media strategy, information architecture and user research. It sounds super nerdy, and I can’t wait to get started.
But the "I Love Memphis" blog isn't going anywhere. After Crawford leaves, posting will be taken over by Holly Whitfield, former editorial director for Scripps Memphis Niche publications.