MEMPHIS, Tenn.– $3.5 million in incentives from Shelby County could help spur the revitalization of the Metro Shopping Plaza near downtown Memphis.

Jeffrey Higgs, a developer who works with the Le Moyne Owen College Community Development Corporation, said the funding approved Monday is a first step in insuring at least some seed money is available when a project plan is developed.

“If it’s done properly this will probably end up being about a 30 or 40 million dollar project if it’s done properly and it’s done to represent this community,” Higgs said.

Sitting next to E.H. Crump Boulevard, the Metro, which opened in 1970, was meant to ignite economic growth in Memphis’ African-American community and has been an important landmark for generations.

The shopping plaza started with nearly two dozen businesses. Now, there are only four businesses.

Eddie Leebo, a stylist at Burks Star Cutz II in the shopping plaza, is excited to hear that the Shelby County government has approved the incentives to give the rundown property a makeover and attract new tenants.

“We really need some more businesses in this shopping center and that ought to help us out as a whole. It will help everybody out that’s in this complex as a whole,” Leebo said.

Leebo points to the missing ceiling tiles and water spots on his shop’s ceiling. All around the property behind broken or boarded up windows are clear signs of what the Metro used to be.

“Business was really good over here, you know, but I cannot recall any renovation ever done to this plaza,” said Marshall Hill who remembers when the Metro first opened.

Jeffrey Higgs said several groups are currently communicating on possible project concepts but the first step is acquiring the property from its current owner. He would not elaborate on what plans are being discussed or who’s involved.