Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lawsuit Could Deem Hotel a 'Public Nuisance'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 3:08 PM

click to enlarge A court hearing will determine whether or not this former hotel site at Union and B.B. King is a public nuisance. - GOOGLE MAPS
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  • A court hearing will determine whether or not this former hotel site at Union and B.B. King is a public nuisance.

The Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) is taking the owners of a highly visible hotel site to court Thursday to, perhaps, deem the property a public nuisance.

In November, the DMC filed a lawsuit against the owners of of the Benchmark Hotel, located at the corner of Union and B.B. King. The former hotel building has been vacant and stripped to the floors and posts for months, visible to any local or tourist visiting AutoZone Park, the Peabody Hotel, and more.

“There have been no substantial improvements made to the property in years and local businesses are concerned with its appearance and other problematic conditions,” said Danny Schaffzin, an attorney representing the DMC.

The DMC wants the building to be declared a public nuisance and will argue that it is “not fit and habitable for human occupancy or authorized use, and perpetuates various public health and safety concerns.”

The court hearing comes after what DMC officials called “repeated failed attempts” to come to an agreement on appropriate next steps with its property owner, Nashville-based MNR Hospitality, LLC.

The lawsuit alleges MNR has failed to properly secure the property, allowed unsafe or unsanitary conditions, and promoted urban blight Downtown. Legally deeming the property a public nuisance will require MNR to create a development plan and a timeline to clean up the property.

“The Benchmark occupies one of the most high-profile corners in Downtown Memphis,” said Jennifer Oswalt, DMC president and CEO. “In addition to being an eyesore, the blighted property creates significant safety concerns.”

The current state of the hotel, “negatively affects the perception of our entire Downtown,” said Doug Browne, president of Peabody Hotels & Resorts.

“We owe our citizens, guests, and tourists a better experience as they walk through this historic neighborhood,” Browne said.

The hearing will be heard Thursday in Shelby County Environmental Court at 1:30 p.m.

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