Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Memphis Pets of the Week (August 16-22)

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 2:31 PM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.
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Stat: Gun Crimes in Shelby County

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 2:04 PM

REI Opens Next Friday

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 2:04 PM

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REI opens here next Friday in the Ridgeway Trace Center at Poplar and I-240.

The 23,000 square-foot store has taken shape in the space that once housed Sports Authority. The shopping center is also home to a Target, Best Buy, and more.  

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REI is a specialty outdoors store, headquartered in Seattle, Wash. It claims to be the largest consumer co-op in the country with a dedicated following of more then 17 million members.

The store offers outdoor gear, expertise, classes, and trips. It has 152 stores in 35 states and Washington, D.C. The Memphis store, REI's first in the city, will employ 50 and include a full-service bike shop.

“People in Memphis love the outdoors, whether it’s biking, paddling or camping,” said Annelise Danielson, REI Memphis store manager. “We are excited to join this community and help connect people in Memphis to a life outdoors. We’ll offer the best gear for the activities they already love, and in-store workshops for those who want to try something new.”

Starting in September, REI Memphis will offer in-store workshops including camping basics, backpacking basics and women’s kayaking basics.

To celebrate the new store, REI Memphis will host a party next weekend with free breakfast, music, games, giveaways, and REI Outdoor School programs. The activities begin at 8 a.m. Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Events end at noon on all three days.

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The first 250 people (age 18 and up) through the door on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will receive a water bottle with a $10, $50, or $100 REI gift card inside. Doors open at 10 a.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

REI has partnered with Ghost River Brewing on a limited-edition India Pale Ale, Happy Herd IPA. REI and Ghost River Brewing will donate 10 percent of beer sales to Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.

The company has also donated $20,000 to three Memphis nonprofits: the Wolf River Conservancy, Overton Park Conservancy, and Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. Funds will support trail restoration and other improvements.

Historic District Ordinance Tabled Over "Threatening" Letter from State

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 10:52 AM

Cooper-Young - FACEBOOK- COOPER-YOUNG COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
  • Facebook- Cooper-Young Community Association
  • Cooper-Young

The Memphis City Council was set to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would provide more structure to historic overlay districts here, but the vote was tabled due to last minute concerns by the Tennessee Historic Preservation Office.


The decision to hold the vote was due largely in part to a “threatening” letter the council received Friday from the historic preservation office, Councilman Kemp Conrad, the sponsor of the ordinance, said. The letter said that passing the ordinance could negatively affect the city’s historic status with the state and the associated funding — $300,000 over the past 12 years.


“I didn’t know how this thing was going to go down tonight, but I felt really good about it,” Conrad said. “I’m truly sad."


Jane Cottone, a representative from the state office, told the council that certain procedural provisions of the ordinance could compromise the city’s standing in the Certified Local Government program, which Memphis has been a part of since 1986.


“Our office has determined that parts of this ordinance contain certain inconsistencies with state law,” Cottone said.

But, Conrad questioned why Memphis isn’t receiving the same treatment as other cities.


“You’re trying to treat Memphis differently than you treat other cities. This is the same group that would not allow us to do what we wanted to do with our Confederate statues. There’s a snake in the grass somewhere.”


Council Chairman Berlin Boyd called the state’s letter “extremely threatening and disrespectful.”


“Every time we get ready to do something in Shelby County, it’s always a problem with Nashville,” Boyd said. “We don’t like the state getting in our business.”

Community stakeholders who have been worked with Conrad to draft the ordinance expressed frustration also over the delay.


One of them, Neil Prosser, a member of the Memphis Landmarks Commission called the state’s interference “unfortunate, ill-timed, and ill-advised.”


“I hope this compromise can be revived and salvaged,” Prosser said.


Cottone said the state is willing to work with the city on resolving the issues in the ordinance following its passing.


“The ball’s in you all’s court now,” Conrad said of the state. “It’s out of my control.”

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Convicted Rapist Gets New Trial Partly for "Dead Poets Society" Argument

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 3:38 PM

Robin Williams in the famous desk scene from 1989's "Dead Poets Society." - CINEMA FANATIC
  • Cinema Fanatic
  • Robin Williams in the famous desk scene from 1989's "Dead Poets Society."

A convicted rapist will get a new trial in part because the Shelby County prosecutor handling the case made part of his closing argument standing on the courtroom desk, to mimic a scene from Dead Poets Society.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals filed the ruling Friday on an appeal made by attorneys for Maurice Baxter last year. Baxter was sentenced to 58 years in prison in 2016 for the 2012 rape of a 64-year-old woman.

Baxter was linked to the crime scene with DNA evidence. But to drive home a point in his closing argument, former Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Joshua Corman asked the jury to ”try to see things from other perspectives.” To do that he stood on the counsel table in the courtroom, just like Robin Williams’ character in 1989 film Dead Poets Society, according to the appeal.

The trial court’s decision was also overturned, in part, because the defense team’s DNA expert changed sides during the case and testified for the prosecution.

The state, listed in the appeal as Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, Assistant Attorney General Caitlin Smith, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy P. Weirich, and ADA Joshua Corman, argued Corman’s argument was “silly” but not improper.

But the appeal’s court disagreed and labeled the act as “prosecutorial misconduct.” Appeals Court Judge Norma McGee Ogle said in the ruling that Corman’s behavior was “childish, not unique.”

“We also fail to see, and the state has not explained, the point of the jury’s needing to ’see things from a different perspective,’” Ogle wrote. “The facts and evidence in this case were relatively straightforward: the victim gave a factual account of a rape, the DNA from the sperm in the victim’s rape kit matched the appellant’s DNA, and the appellant’s driver’s license showed he lived on the same street as the victim.
“In our view, the prosecutor’s reference to a movie that was irrelevant to the facts and then standing on counsel table was an act of showmanship calculated to inflame the passions of the jury, and we cannot fathom why he would unnecessarily risk a mistrial or reversal knowing that the victim would be forced to testify again to the horrific ordeal she experienced.”

Weirich said Tuesday that her office had been in contact with the victim and, if the appeal is overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court, "we are prepared to try the case again."

Here's Weirich's full statement on the matter:

"The Court of Criminal Appeals reviews every jury conviction. In this case, the jury convicted the defendant of breaking in to the home of a 67-year-old grandmother and raping her repeatedly. He was identified through his DNA.

"As with any case, the trial judge in this case ruled on objections from both the state and defense. One of those objections related to the prosecutor — who is now in private practice — delivering his closing argument standing on a table. The Court of Criminal Appeals found fault with the prosecutor and with the judge for allowing that. For that reason, as well as others, they reversed the conviction.

"Nowhere do they accuse the trial judge of misconduct. And, as is Judge [Thomas] Woodall’s point in the concurring opinion [more on that below], it is unfair to do so with prosecutorial mistakes.

"We have spoken to the victim and, unless the Tennessee Supreme Court reverses the Court of Criminal Appeals, we are prepared to try the case again."

Baxter’s defense attorney objected to Corman standing on the table during the trial in 2016. But Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James C. Beasley Jr. said, “It’s closing arguments. I’ll allow it.” During a motion for new trial hearing, a court official said Corman “made a point.”
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“I’m sure that there are those within our profession and maybe on the Court of Criminal Appeals who think that such drama is not appropriate, but I’m not sure that I think that it’s something that if it were exaggerated or carried to extremes might be inappropriate but I think he made a point,” the official said.

Here’s how Corman’s Dead Poets Society moment went down, according to the appeal:

"During the prosecutor’s rebuttal closing argument, he stated as follows:

“One of my favorite movies is an old movie that’s called The Dead Poets Society. Remember the movie The Dead Poets Society, with Robin Williams?
“He plays a teacher in a prep school. He does a thing in the movie where he stands up on the desk, and he has each of the students do it. And the purpose of that is to try to see things from other perspectives.

“I’m asking you to do the same thing in this case. This is a rape case, aggravated rape. There are two defenses in a rape case. It wasn’t me; I didn’t do it. We had sex, but it was consensual.

"The record reflects that the prosecutor was standing on top of counsel table at the time of his argument.

"Defense counsel objected to the prosecutor’s 'standing on a desk as he’s talking to the jurors.' The trial court overruled the objection, stating, 'It’s closing arguments. I’ll allow it.'

"The prosecutor continued as follows:

“Those are the two defenses in a rape case. I didn’t do it, or it was consensual.

“In this case, with [the victim] up there, a sixty-year-old woman, no, you can’t go with this was a consensual sexual encounter. Right?

”You really can’t go with, ‘I didn’t do it,’ either, ’It wasn’t me.’ It’s your DNA. It’s your sperm that’s found in her vagina.

”So, see things from a different perspective.”

While the opinion called Corman’s behavior prosecutorial misconduct, Appeals Court Judge Thomas Woodall said the label was a mistake. Making such distinctions are the authority of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, he said.
“Also, it seems to be quite unfair that only prosecutors are caught up in the net of having their erroneous arguments defined by an appellate court in terms which infer that an ethical violation has occurred,” Woodall wrote. “I am not aware of any opinion of this court labeling an improper argument by defense counsel as 'defense attorney misconduct.’”

At the time of the trial in 2016, Corman was an ADA with the Special Victims Unit, according to a news release at the time. He is now in private practice, according to his website, which describes him as a “former prosecutor fighting for you.”

Rallings Calls Media Coverage of ACLU Lawsuit “Erroneous”

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 3:11 PM

Michael Rallings with crowd during protest - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • Michael Rallings with crowd during protest

In response to news coverage of a recent court ruling saying that Memphis violated a 1978 consent decree by gathering political intelligence on protesters, Michael Rallings, director of the Memphis Police Department (MPD), said Tuesday that some of the language in the reports "does not accurately reflect the department's activities."


Specifically, Rallings said the terms "surveillance" and "spying" are "erroneous."

Rallings also said the city’s goal has been to be transparent about the issues involved in the case, ACLU of Tennessee, Inc vs. City of Memphis.


“In fact the only reason many of the articles were printed in the first place is because we voluntarily unsealed documents and posted them on the city website for the world to see,” Rallings said.

Set to go to trial Monday, August 20th, the case is the result of a lawsuit against the city for gathering political intelligence on protesters over a two-year period through social media and other mediums. Rallings said he can’t speak at length about ongoing litigation but "feels compelled to explain a few things":

-The terms “surveillance” and “spying” are “erroneous,” and were never used in the court’s order. “Those words conjure up images of officers in unmarked vans on the street corner listening to tapped phone conversations. This does not accurately reflect MPD’s activities, or its motivation, regarding the monitoring of events which are the subject of this lawsuit.”


-Officers look at social media posts to help us gauge the size and intensity of demonstrations so that we can properly provide for public safety. This is also an effective tool in stopping criminal activity such as sexual predators, domestic violence, stalking, and threats. We also use other technology, such as body cameras, SkyCops, and security cameras in our law enforcement efforts to keep Memphians safe.


-Monitoring of social media posts and the usage of modern technology such as body cameras are considered to be best practices in policing nationwide. Various media reports show that many other cities, such as Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Little Rock, San Jose, and Seattle, use social media monitoring. In the aftermath of last year’s Charlottesville riots that resulted in about 40 casualties, including three deaths, the after-action recommendation said that monitoring social media is crucial to protecting public safety.

“We feel like we have been complying with the consent decree as it would apply to today’s world,” Rallings said. “We need to be able to read these posts and use them as part of our decisions about how we deploy resources, since we are responsible for the safety of all involved.”


Protest and counterprotest can cause “mayhem and loss of life,” Ralling said, but proper social media monitoring helps the agency prepare and respond to those types of events.


“These tools enabled me to ensure that the 2016 bridge protest was peaceful and without injury,” Rallings said. “Without these tools, I believe that night would have ended very differently We will, however, follow the judge’s order.”


Rallings said if the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, then the department will “find a way to balance public safety with complying with the manner in which the court interprets the consent decree.”


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State Review of School Security Nearly Complete

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 2:29 PM

Students across Shelby County walked out earlier this year to protest gun violence in schools. - SHELBY COUNTY SCHOOLS/FACEBOOK
  • Shelby County Schools/Facebook
  • Students across Shelby County walked out earlier this year to protest gun violence in schools.

A statewide assessment of the security of Tennessee schools is almost complete and $35 million in grant funds are available to help schools "address vulnerabilities and risks."

Governor Bill Haslam said Tuesday that 1,796 schools, or 99 percent of the state's public schools, have been reviewed. The remaining 1 percent will be reviewed by the end of the month, he said.

The Tennessee General Assembly included $35 million in this year's state budget to help schools beef up their security measures. This includes $25 million in one-time funding and $10 million for ongoing safety and prevention programs. The money can be used for things like enhancing entry to and exit from schools, training and availability of school resource officers, and in-school mental health resources for students.

“All children in Tennessee deserve to learn in a safe and secure environment,” Haslam said in a statement Tuesday. “I am confident the significant work undertaken by our state and local officials as well as the funding to implement identified areas for improvement will serve to enhance the safety of our schools, educators, and students.”

Also, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is looking for a developer to create a statewide school safety application for mobile devices. The app would allow students, faculty, and staff to anonymously report "concerning or suspicious behavior" to law enforcement and school officials.

The moves to increase school security came after a shooter killed 17 in a school in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year.

Students in Shelby County protested school gun violence with a walkout in April. It was one of nearly 2,100 such walkouts across the country on the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School, where 13 people were killed.  

Convention Center Hotel Planned for Plaza East of City Hall

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Proposed luxury apartments at 100 N. Main - TOWNHOUSE MANAGEMENT COMPANY/LOWES HOTEL & CO
  • Townhouse Management Company/Lowes Hotel & Co
  • Proposed luxury apartments at 100 N. Main

The city’s new convention center hotel is now planned for the city-owned plaza directly to the east of City Hall, Doug McGowen the city's chief operating officer announced Tuesday at a Memphis City Council committee meeting. 


The hotel is being developed by Townhouse Management Company in partnership with the Lowes Hotel & Co. The plans originally called for converting Memphis’ tallest building at 100 N. Main into the hotel, but representatives with Lowes said the plaza was the best option to create a hotel with a vibrant campus around it.


The convention center hotel is slated to rise 26 floors and house 550 rooms, as well as 55,000 square feet of meeting space. A 1,200-spot parking garage is planned for 80 N. Main next door. The plans also include a restaurant, cafe, and three bars.


McGowen said the convention hotel will be “world class and once again give Memphis the chance to host a significant number of meetings and events.”


“It’s a one-time opportunity,” McGowen said. “We must have the deal closed by end of year and the hotel must be open by year 2023.”

The hotel “will be big,” developers said, designed to stand out in city’s skyline, “announcing that Memphis is open for business.”


The goal is span economic development over a two-block area, leading to a “broad revitalization in this portion of Downtown,” developers said. In addition to the hotel, luxury apartments, 30,000 square feet of commercial space, and 65,000 square feet of hotel amenities are planned for 100 N. Main.

Entire site plan - TOWNHOUSE MANAGEMENT COMPANY/LOWES HOTEL & CO
  • Townhouse Management Company/Lowes Hotel & Co
  • Entire site plan

Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels said when a convention center hotel gets constructed, “all boats rise,” other economic development is spurred, and areas become 24-hour neighborhoods. A hotel, along with commercial and residential space, is the “holy trinity,” he said.


The plan was recommended for approval by the council committee, and the full council is set to vote on the issue in two weeks. An up vote will allow the project to move forward in the approval process to be designated as a “quality public use facility” within the Downtown Tourist Development Zone. The State Building Commission also has to okay the plan.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Horseshoe Tunica to Open Sports Betting Monday

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 9:34 AM

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"The Book at Horseshoe Tunica" opens Monday, August 13th at 11:30 a.m. The first 500 bettors will receive a free T-shirt.

Sports and entertainment stars, including DeAngelo Williams and Chris Kirkpatrick will make ceremonial first bets. Several Mississippi government officials will also be on hand.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Memphians’ Favorite TDOT Signs

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 2:18 PM

TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation


The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) can get a little creative when it comes to signs on the interstate. A member of the Memphis Reddit community recently asked the group what their favorite sign is.

“I've been seeing ‘OMG Stop Texting and Driving’ pretty frequently as of late,” the user, UncleChubb posted. “Always loved the ‘Turn Signals: The Original Text Message’ and something along the lines of ‘Get off your phone! Ain't nobody got time for a wreck!’ I appreciate the creativity during my commute.”

Here are some of the responses:
Card Card Card Card Card Card Oops. 

Memphis in May to Honor City of Memphis in 2019

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 11:05 AM

MIM- FACEBOOK
  • MIM- Facebook

In honor of the city’s upcoming 200th birthday, the 2019 Memphis in May International Festival (MIM) will honor Memphis and Shelby County for the first time in the 42-year-old event’s history.


Historically, MIM salutes a country for the one-month festival, but next year, tradition will be broken to celebrate the city’s bicentennial, festival organizers announced Thursday.


“As the Official Festival of the City of Memphis, our board of directors understood what an historic opportunity this was for Memphis in May to break from tradition and celebrate a new century for Memphis,” James Holt, president and CEO of MIM said. “Each year we celebrate the rich history and culture of another country here in Memphis, but this year we look forward to celebrating the history and culture of our hometown as only Memphis in May can.”


Next year, instead of choosing a local artist to create the official festival poster, Memphis artists will have the chance to submit design proposals. A juried panel, along with votes from the public, will determine the finalists.


Finalists’ posters will be on display at the festival’s cultural exhibits and the winning design will be available for purchase as the commemorative poster.


A new event is also slated for the 2019 festival called Celebrate Memphis, which organizers say will be “one of the Mid-South’s most spectacular events.” It’ll feature food, music, art, innovation, while showcasing individuals and organizations “from every corner of the community.”


“It’s an exciting time to be a part of our next century, and to witness in real-time the influence Memphis has around the world,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. “As we celebrate 200 years of originality that has changed the world, Memphis in May choosing Memphis as the subject of its annual salute is a wonderful birthday present.”


MIM- FACEBOOK
  • MIM- Facebook

MIM officials also announced Thursday that for the second year in a row, this year’s festival had “record-setting gross revenue,” finishing at $10.9 million. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2017 and up 29 percent from 2016.

Much of this came from the Beale Street Music Festival, which sold 102,507 tickets, with $4.5 million admission gross, according to organizers.


According to MIM, the 2018 festival had a local economic impact of $137.7 million and contributed more than $3.5 in local tax revenues, supporting 1,300 full-time equivalent jobs.


See the 2019 Memphis in May schedule below.


Beale Street Music Festival: May 3 - 5, 2019

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 15 - 18, 2019

Great American River Run: May 25, 2019

Celebrate Memphis: May 25, 2019

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

County to Host Free Active Shooter Training

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 2:50 PM

GOIR | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • goir | Dreamstime.com

The Shelby County Office of Preparedness (SCOP) is offering two free active-shooter awareness and prevention trainings on Saturday, Aug. 18th.


Each session will be a 90-minute lecture in which attendees will learn how to react quickly and safely during an active shooting with the “run, hide, fight” strategy.


Dale Lane, director of SCOP said the training will provide a survival plan to stay alive during active shootings, which “can happen without warning and evolve quickly.”


“In an emergency, whether a disaster or an active shooter event, you are the first boots on the ground before emergency services have a chance to respond,” Lane said. “We offer free training to give you the knowledge, confidence, and skills to stay alive and to assist those around you until the professional first responders arrive on the scene.”


The training will be at the SCOP office on Mullins Station, beginning at 9 a.m. and then again at 1 p.m.


Additionally, the SCOP is recruiting for its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a group of citizens trained to handle potential hazards and threats in Shelby County. To become a member of CERT, one must attend two consecutive Saturday training sessions to learn basic, life-saving disaster preparedness skills.


The classes cover how to assemble a disaster kit, as well as skills for fire suppression, team organization, light search and rescue, medical triage, and first aid. There will also be information about terrorism, hazardous materials, and disaster psychology.


Once completing the two sesion, team members will be certified for two years. The classes will be on Sept. 22nd and 29th from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the SCOP offices.


Registration for CERT and the active shooter training is online or can be done by calling 901-222-6706.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Memphis Pets of the Week (August 9-15)

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 2:38 PM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Overton Square Hotel Slated to Open in 2020

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 3:19 PM

Rendering of hotel at Cooper and Trimble - LOEB
  • Loeb
  • Rendering of hotel at Cooper and Trimble

Plans for a boutique hotel in Overton Square moved forward Monday, after developers submitted the plans to the Office of Planning and Development.


Developed by Loeb Properties in partnership with LRC2 Properties and MMI Hotel Group, the hotel is slated for what’s currently a 1.3 acre parking lot to the north of Hattiloo Theater.


The hotel will be designed for Marriott's boutique soft brand, Tribute Portfolio, built to match Overton Square’s “unique architecture and high-end finishes that incorporate local historic imagery.”


Tribute Portfolio hotels are “robust in personality” and designed for “travelers seeking fresh travel experiences that reflect their own unique individual point of view,” according to Marriott’s website.


Loeb Properties says the hotel here will have “expressive design moments, vibrant public spaces,” as well as food and beverage services that include a rooftop bar overlooking Overton Square.


Hotel developers anticipate the hotel will enable a regional performing arts district to form around Playhouse on the Square, Hattiloo Theater, and Ballet Memphis


Last year, Loeb Properties was awarded a $6.1 million tax break over 15 years by the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County to construct the hotel.


Plans submitted to EDGE priced the project at a little over $24 million. Construction of the seven-story, 109-room hotel could begin as early as December, wrapping up in early 2020.


LOEB
  • Loeb

LOEB
  • Loeb

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Greenspace Looks to Recreate Parks Formerly Home to Confederate Statues

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 12:37 PM

Former view of Memphis Park
  • Former view of Memphis Park

Memphis Greenspace, the nonprofit that bought two Downtown parks and removed the Confederate statues from them last year, is now looking to activate and reinvent the spaces.


After additional Confederate memorabilia was removed from Memphis Park last weekend, Van Turner, director and president of Greenspace, said there are no longer any impediments in the park.


“Let’s recreate the parks and put there what people want,” Turner said. “The slate is clean.”


Over the weekend, proof of the clean slate was evident in Memphis Park, as it housed the city’s inaugural Dîner en Blanc, a pop-up dinner party established in Paris in the late ’80s.

Penelope Huston, vice president of marketing at the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC), one of Greenspace’s community partners, said 1,175 people attended the dinner and with the Confederate memorabilia still in the park that type of event “would not have been possible.”


When the organizer of the pop-up dinner came to Memphis looking for an event venue, Huston said “there was no place she wanted to be more” after learning about the history of Memphis Park.


Memphis' inaugural Dîner en Blanc - DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS COMMISSION
  • Downtown Memphis Commission
  • Memphis' inaugural Dîner en Blanc

“It made sense to help wipe the slate clean,” Huston said.


In an average week, the park also brings in more than 200 people for DMC-sponsored yoga and pilates classes.


“All this is bringing in thousands of people who haven’t experienced that park before who are now coming into Downtown and engaging with the parks,” Huston said. “Those numbers are important because they would have all been zero before.”


However, things are moving slower in Health Sciences Park where Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife are still buried.


Turner said he hopes that the litigation surrounding the graves and markers will wrap up by the end of the year.


There has already been efforts to do programming in Health Sciences Park, Huston said, but there hasn’t been a lot of community engagement. “We haven’t given up, though.”


Huston said the challenge is getting people back into parks where they previously hadn’t felt welcomed.


“Because people have been out of those spaces for a while, they have to be trained to come back in,” Huston said.


Still, Turner said there is a lot of potential at both park and that Greenspace is working with its community partners — the DMC, Memphis Medical District Collaborative, Memphis River Parks Partnership, Memphis Bloom, and UT Health Sciences — to further activate the parks.


The nonprofit is also open to suggestions about what should be implemented in the parks, Turner said. Feedback can be submitted on the Greenspace website.


Pop-up playgrounds, more seating, and art installations are all possibilities for the future, he said.


As far as memorializing any one person in the parks, which was an idea floated around by activists after the statues were removed, Turner said he thinks they should be temporary, rotating every several months.


“From a creative standpoint, we don’t want to be stuck in the mud, stuck in history, and get caught flat-footed again,” Turner said. “We want the park to be living, breathing, and fluid, while being able to change and reinvent itself.”


Turner said that’s the direction the city should go in as well, as “Memphis needs to reinvent itself and not be stuck in the past.”


“We need to constantly be evolving and reinterpreting what is already here,” Turner said. “That’s how you grow and how you keep people coming back.”

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