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Key Votes Set on $19.5 Million Redevelopment Plan for Memphis, Tennessee's
Historic Chisca Hotel, the Site of Elvis Presley's First Radio Interview

By Wayne Risher, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 12, 2012--Would-be developers of the historic Chisca Hotel will try to clear a path for about $3 million in public incentives for the project next week.

A City Council committee is scheduled Tuesday to review a $2 million appropriation for blight cleanup and a $1 million loan to help the Downtown Parking Authority buy and renovate the parking garage.

The Center City Development Corp. and parking authority, arms of the Downtown Memphis Commission, will vote Wednesday on project details including clawback provisions for city funding.

The Downtown commission, the $19.5 million project's staunchest advocate, urged project supporters Thursday to call their council members about the upcoming votes.

The $2 million already has been placed in the city capital improvement program budget, but another vote is needed to make it available for the project.

The parking garage loan would come out of a trust fund that's overseen by the Downtown agency, but is subject to approval by city and county mayors and legislative bodies.

The public incentives are designed to plug a gap between an anticipated $17 million in private investment in the project and the total cost of renovating a long-vacant, badly deteriorated structure.

If approved by the economic development, tourism and technology committee on Tuesday, the funding resolutions would go to the full council for consideration Aug. 7, Downtown commission president Paul Morris said.

"We have made great progress, and the Chisca development team is still hard at work to bring this project to a reality," Morris said in an email to project supporters.

The century-old hotel at 272 S. Main helped launch Elvis Presley's career. Disc jockey Dewey Phillips, whose career provided inspiration for "Memphis," the musical, aired "That's All Right, Mama," on his Red, Hot and Blue radio show on WHBQ-AM from mezzanine-level space at the Chisca in 1954. Presley did his first radio interview with Phillips at the hotel.

The hotel is perennially listed as one of the city's most threatened historic structures.

The Center City Development Corp. would be authorized to spend the $2 million city grant on project expenses including abatement of asbestos and lead paint and work on the building's shell, such as foundation and structural repairs.

If developers sell for a profit, the city would get half the profit up to $2 million under terms of a reimbursement agreement.


(c)2012 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

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