City Pays Up For Sears Crosstown Project Despite Questions

(Memphis) The City of Memphis can’t seem to find the money for pre-k, but it is forking over millions for the Sears Crosstown Project.

City Council approved $15 Million for the renovation of the massive building.

City council members tell News Channel 3 renovating the Sears Crosstown building is the city’s top priority right now, and fixing Memphis’s shoddy roads along with other costly projects will have to wait.

The city is moving over a million dollars from the street work fund to pay for it.

“This is the biggest eyesore. It’s the largest testament to blight in the middle of Memphis and to be able to do something about it is historic,” said City Councilman Lee Harris.

Harris says the renovation project is not only historic but so is  the city’s partnership with private investors to pay for it.

The entire redevelopment of the Sears Crosstown building will cost nearly $200 million, and the city is chipping in $15 million to go along with private investments.

The building will house a charter school, apartments, non-profit offices and medical centers.

Harris says the $15 Million dollar investment will bring in more money in the long run.

“It’s amazing leverage to put in $15 million and get a return of a $200 million asset in the middle of Memphis,” said Harris.

Here’s the breakdown of how the city will pay for it:

More than $12 million will come from federal grants.

$900,000 comes is being taken from the storm water fund, $500,000 from the MLGW street light fund, and $1.5 million from the street work fund.

“Sure we hear about roads and we have a lot problems in Memphis, but this is a psychological booster today,” said Harris.

Harris pointed out the last big project like this was the $300 million FedEx Forum, and the city footed the entire bill of it.

Council members Wanda Halbert and Harold Collins didn’t vote for the project because they said there wasn’t enough information on the project.

Councilman Myron Lowery says that’s not true.

“We’ve been inundated with materials about it showing that it will be self-sustaining,” said Lowery.

Council members say they haven`t received nearly the amount of information they have on the AutoZone Park deal.

Mayor A C Wharton wants them to approve $27 million to buy that stadium, but council members pushed the vote back until next week to learn more about the deal.

Council members say the entire fate of a Memphis neighborhood rests on the Sears Crosstown project because it sits in a spot connecting North Memphis and Midtown to Downtown.

“Everyone asks about it. They want to know when they’re going to start on the building across the street. What’s it going to be? Have you heard anything about it?” said Kia Porter, who works at the convenience store across the street from the Sears Crosstown building.

She says redeveloping it will reinvigorate the neighborhood.

“Business will pick up pretty good. Business will start booming. I’ll be glad when they start doing the construction on it so we’ll pick up more here,” said Porter.

Caroline Mosley grew up in the shadow of the Sear’s building and still lives there.

She will be glad to see the building in use once again.

“When Sears was here it was great because people were in and out, and a lot of stuff was going on and it was great. But then when they shut down it’s like nothing else is going on over there,” said Mosley.

Church Health President Antony Sheehan says the project’s innovative concept will help the community.

“Not only in the future will we be able to treat pain and touch pain but we will be able work with a community of others including education,” said Sheehan.

Now that the city has shelled out $15 million to help pay for the massive project they are appointing two community members to the development board to oversee the progress and keep tabs on your investment.

“From the first shovel to the last shovel the community will be at the table and will be able to make sure this will be the transformative change it has potential to before,” said Harris.

Harris says he expects work to here in the beginning of 2014.

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