Wiseacre Brewing officials have 180 days (or about six months) to inspect the MidSouth Coliseum and decide if they want to expand their business into the former arena.
Wiseacre co-founder Frank Smith pitched an idea to council members two weeks ago to convert the long-vacant Coliseum into a brewery, a tasting room, event space, and a retail location.
The Memphis City Council approved lease terms for the Memphis craft brewery Tuesday evening.
The lease agreement passed a full council vote by a count of 11-0. The resolution for the deal was sponsored by council chairman Kemp Conrad and council member Jamita Swearengen.
"The terms required by the council’s resolution include no city funds, a 30 year lease with renewal options, and an estimated $12 million dollar investment by Wiseacre," Conrad said in his post-meeting council round-up. "This council believes this to be a truly transformative possibility for the Coliseum, for the Fairgrounds, and for the city. We hope to see it move forward."
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the deal was, basically, a win-win.
"It was great to work as a team with the city council on a proposal that could further economic development – and at the same time repurpose a long-vacant building using no city money," Strickland said in a statement.
City officials returned to the council Tuesday to deliver the terms of leasing the 104,000 square-foot Coliseum to the craft brewery. Antonio Adams, director of the city’s General Services division, quoted a monthly lease rate of $25,000, or $300,000 per year, for the entire building.
The deal would give Wiseacre officials up to six months to perform due diligence on the project. In the meantime, the company would give Memphis $25,000 in good faith funding. The money would be credited to the company’s rent if they move ahead; it would be given back if the company decides against the project.
Wiseacre would be responsible for bringing the aged building up to “well-lit shell conditions,” Adams said. That means the Coliseum would be renovated with improvements to the walls, ceilings, heating and cooling, plumbing, and more. Wiseacre would spend put to $12 million, Adams, said, to make the improvements and finish the space to its needs.
But the company has said it would not use the entire building for its operations. Wiseacre would sub-lease parts of the concourse to other companies, retailers likely. The city’s deal would allow them sub-lease spaces but would take 30 percent of the rent proceeds they take in above Wiseacre’s $25,000 monthly rent payment.
Council member Martavius Jones said that while he “loves the proposal,” he wanted to delay the vote to ensure that other companies or groups could make their pitches for the space.
“I don’t think we’ve fairly opened this up to all comers and all takers like we did with the police department at Adams and Second,” Jones said. However, council attorney Allan Wade said Smith told council members that time was of the essence in the project and waiting might “blow this thing out of the water.”
Council member Worth Morgan said companies had ample opportunities to make their pitches and that it hasn’t been a “rushed process.”
“Maybe this isn’t the greatest and best thing in everybody’s mind but this is a great deal for a piece of city property that has been sitting vacant too long,” Morgan said. “What we heard two weeks ago is we may lose this deal if we do delay.”