(Memphis) City council members voted Tuesday to approve its portion of the $175 million Sears Crosstown project.
Developers came up with about $160 million, and had requested the city come up with $15 million for partial demolition work and blight removal, among other expenses.
Some on the council said they didn’t like being asked to put up money to redevelop the building, especially since they still don’t know who’s behind the deal.
“Sitting a book in front of us and asking us to vote on anonymous people who don’t want to be identified, this is a struggle for me, director,” said Council Member Wanda Halbert.
Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb said the owners are giving the city the building, which has been empty for 20 years, and want to remain anonymous.
Lipscomb said the $15 million will be reimbursed through grants later on, and even laid out where the city money would come from: public works, MLGW two federal grants and a newly discovered government Energy Conservation Bond.
It still left some council members skeptical.
“I don’t think again it’s fair to ask your board of directors to vote on a $15 million project when you give it to us 12 hours, no, after you finished the project and present it to us. I just don’t think that is right,” said Council Member Harold Collins.
Lipscomb wanted a vote, saying other cities would kill for a project like this that is totally grant-funded.
Council members said his passion didn’t quell the questions they would have to answer from their constituents.
“You talk about the areas, the predominantly African-American areas, this is gonna effect. What about the jobs, what kind of jobs?” asked Council Member Janis Fullilove.
Despite the debate, the plan was moved on to the full council meeting and was passed.
The council still has two weeks to approve the meeting’s minutes, so if members think the necessary questions haven’t been answered, they can basically rescind the funding approval.