Friday, March 9, 2007

Crichton Redevelopment Hits Snag

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Last spring, the leaders of Crichton College set forth a plan to buy numerous properties on Walnut Grove Road between Holmes and Tillman to build student housing and athletic facilities. President Larry Lloyd said the area would be ideal for expanding the Christian liberal-arts school that’s currently located on several acres at 255 North Highland. And most neighborhood residents, weary of the blighted duplexes that have littered the landscape around East High School for decades, heartily applauded the proposal.

To date, the school has purchased some of the duplexes but owners of several properties, including an apartment complex, are so far refusing to sell to Crichton or are asking impossibly high prices. Lloyd declined to comment on the acquisition plan’s progress.

This isn’t the first time that neighborhood residents have had their hopes dashed that the area known as Eastview could be revitalized. From 2003 to 2006, Robert Lipscomb, the city’s director of housing and community development, and his staff gave numerous pep talks — complete with charts, graphs, and timelines — to neighborhood groups promising that change, however slow, would come.

“Something’s going to happen soon; it can’t go on as it’s been,” Lipscomb told Memphis magazine in a September 2003 article. “You can’t beat the location. It’s got good shopping at Poplar Plaza and Chickasaw Oaks, it’s got not one but two golf courses, the best library in the whole country, and a variety of good housing . . .You couldn’t ask for a better neighborhood except for the blight.” The City Council even approved funds to buy the slum properties, and Lipscomb said the city would use eminent domain as a legal device to acquire the properties if owners refused to sell.

Last summer, after an eminent domain case was settled in favor of a Northeastern city, backlash against the decision was so strong that Lipscomb and other leaders dropped plans for Eastview. All without a word to neighborhood associations who had patiently waited for change.

Says Lipscomb: “When we lost the ability to [execute] eminent domain, we could not do anything, due to the price the landlords wanted for the properties. [We’re] working with Crichton to develop the area.”

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