CA: TDZ plan could transform Memphis riverfront, Mud Island
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland could seek City Council and state approval in early 2017 to reinvest potentially millions of sales tax dollars captured by the Downtown Tourism Development Zone into the riverfront and Mud Island River Park.
Strickland’s administration will propose an amendment to the Downtown TDZ that would define the riverfront and Mud Island as “qualified public use facilities,” freeing the city to use TDZ funds for everything from construction projects to street lights and sidewalks within a mile of the facilities, Chief Operations Officer Doug McGowen confirmed this week. The administration is still developing its proposal including possible projects.
The expansion of the scope of the TDZ could spur more development along the Mississippi River — an area already flush with the success of Bass Pro Shops, the opening of the Big River Crossing trail over the river and the anticipation of $1.3 billion in capital spending by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the Pinch District.
Both the Bass Pro Shops and the Pinch District are existing qualified public use facilities for TDZ money, along with the Memphis Cook Convention Center. As previously announced, the city is contributing an additional $25 million in TDZ funds for public infrastructure improvements around St. Jude. The city is hoping to receive approval from the council, Shelby County Commission and Community Redevelopment Agency to use funds through the Uptown Tax-Increment Financing District for housing and community projects near St. Jude, McGowen said.
The TDZ expansion would allow the city to “activate” the historically neglected riverfront, weaving it into the rest of Downtown — similar to what is happening with Fourth Bluff as part of the Reimagining the Civic Commons project, said Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp.
But devoting money to the riverfront and Mud Island comes with a price: a grand, long-range vision of expanding the Memphis Cook Convention Center toward the river at a cost of nearly $1 billion isn’t on the table — at least for now, said Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane. He said the funding is already available for a $50 million to $60 million modernization and renovation of the convention center.
RDC will organize public meetings next year to gather citizen input on how the city should develop and enhance the riverfront and Mud Island, McGowen said. “There will be adequate opportunity for public input on whatever happens on the riverfront.”
The proposal to the state will include some ideas for projects, but the finished product will ultimately reflect what citizens want, McGowen said.
McGowen couldn’t immediately answer questions about how much the TDZ generates in a year and how much money is currently available but said the TDZ is “outproducing” the amount set aside to pay down debt service. TDZs cap the amount of sales tax revenue flowing to the state and city from businesses in the area, then set aside any revenues above that baseline for reinvestment in and around qualified public use facilities.
With a lifespan of 30 years, the Downtown TDZ expires in 2031.