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Old mall site still has potential

Commercial Appeal, The (Memphis, TN) - Thursday, November 22, 2007

SURELY, THE GROUND where the Mall of Memphis used to sit must be cursed.

The mall itself closed in 2003, capping a long downward spiral caused by crime problems and declining store sales.

The 95-acre property has been a dumping site for dead bodies on several occasions, which isn't exactly a strong selling point.

Even so, it appeared the property might be poised for a comeback of sorts when Wal-Mart submitted plans earlier this year to put a "Supercenter" there.

That megastore could have been an anchor for other development on the site, providing a healthy boost to the Parkway Village neighborhood.

Alas, Robert Lipscomb, the city's director of housing and community development, confirmed this week that Wal-Mart is no longer interested in the site.

And, at this point, Lipscomb said there's no readily apparent Plan B.

After city officials spent several years trying to coax Wal-Mart into investing at the old mall site, it's frustrating that their efforts didn't pan out. However, it serves no useful purpose to dwell on the negatives.

In truth, the property near the intersection of Perkins and Interstate 240 seems to have a lot going for it.

Since demolition and clearing work on the mall was completed in 2005, the site is one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land within the city limits.

It's got extremely convenient access to both the interstate and nearby Memphis International Airport.

And it's located within a reasonable driving distance from almost all parts of Shelby County.

In other words, the site could represent a tremendous opportunity for economic development, if the right use can be found.

Lipscomb said a couple of years ago that some type of mixed-use project might stand the best chance of success.

He said such a project might include some housing, retail businesses and perhaps one or more public buildings.

At the time, city officials were thinking about putting a new branch library, police precinct or park on the property, all of which might help spur private sector development.

Those ideas might be still be valid, but there are other possibilities, too.

The site might have potential for some type of light industrial business, particularly given the interest some community leaders have in marketing Memphis as an airport-centered "aerotropolis." Or maybe there's even some possibility of building office space there.

But one of the same problems that doomed the mall remains with the property today - that is, the nagging perceptions about crime. Unless potential land users are convinced their employees and/or customers would be safe, it's going to continue to be tough to market the property.

Reversing the mall site's fortunes will be a difficult challenge, but the city can't afford to give up.

In 1992, with the mall operating in full swing, the city collected about $1.3 million worth of property taxes there. In 2005, with the mall gone and the land cleared, the city's property taxes were about $138,000.

The city can't afford to absorb a more than $1 million-a-year hit indefinitely. After all, as the old saying about government goes, you add $1 million here and $1 million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Mall of Memphis Site Back on the Market

Memphis Business Journal, January 28, 2011

A 113-acre site that once was home to the Mall of Memphis is back on the market.

Commercial Advisors LLC brokers Dave Curran and Matt Weathersby, who are listing the property for an asking price of $3.95 million, see it as a prime location for Memphis’ next big industrial user.

Memphis Mall Holdings LLC, an entity of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., owns the property at the southwest corner of Perkins and Interstate 240, but has had it off the market for the past two years.

“They’re a motivated seller looking to get something done,” Weathersby says.

The property has 25 acres of flood plain, which leaves 88 acres of land for development.

The site is zoned commercial and typically has been marketed for retail development. However, Weathersby and Curran see it better suited for a manufacturing, distribution or warehousing operation. He says it could accommodate 1.3 million square feet of Class A industrial space.

The Mall of Memphis site reminds Mark Whitaker, president of Whitaker Realty LLC, of property at Hickory Hill and Raines that was targeted by Kellogg Co. for a new cereal plant years ago. After the deal fell apart, the property, which was graded and had infrastructure in place, was put on the market.

“Industrial Developments International came along, bought the site and developed it as one of their earlier Memphis industrial properties,” Whitaker says. “It turned out to be a great success. When I saw this, it reminded me of the Kellogg site. I don’t see why the same thing couldn’t be done on this site.”