City Council debates $50M request from Union Row developers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —Developers of the Union Row project along Union Avenue downtown are asking city leaders for another $50 million after the city has already committed to $100 million in a tax increment financing district for the project.

Tuesday, city council members debated whether the investment was worth it for a development that could fundamentally change Memphis as we know it.

“This is not something we should hold off on,” said Jennifer Oswalt, CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission.

Her agency supports the developers’ request for $50 million to help finance two parking garages, all part of the massive Union Row development stretching from AutoZone Park to Danny Thomas Boulevard.

“It’s a loan set aside only for this use. So if it’s not built, the money will just sit there and hope for another project like this,” Oswalt said. “We don’t want to hope. We want to capitalize on what we have in front of us.”

Plans for the $950 million Union Row development include apartments, office space and a grocery store.

But developers say those tenants will never come if there’s not enough parking.

“Rents in Memphis do not support the ability to do this without incentive. We know that because nothing has happened,” developers with Big River Partners said.

But Councilman Martavius Jones worries about the city giving too much, to just one project.

“I’d like us, instead of doing things in a piecemeal manner, let’s have an overall plan,” Jones said.

Jones says he’s already voted against it once, and plans to do so again, even if that means cancelling the entire thing.

Developers say that’s exactly what will happen if they don’t get approval in two weeks, when the full council is expected to vote on this.

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