Downtown redevelopment echoing city's journey - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Downtown redevelopment echoing city's journey

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

It wasn't the most exciting demolition photo op ever staged.

At a news conference hailing the toppling of one of the former 14 silos once owned by the Lone Star company, as the continuation of the second phase of the Riverside Demolition and Greenway Project, progress for the city was displayed on more than just one front. One of the structures had served as the towering base for the now taken down "Neon Memphis" greeting signs that once proclaimed travelers entry into Memphis.

MORE: Iconic Memphis sign a thing of the past

It will all one day help create a "synergy" along the city's previously dormant riverfront area that'll be connected to Bass Pro's Pyramid and a two-hundred million dollar Tourist Development Zone in the Pinch District area.

"The hotel industry is excited about it. The restaurants are excited. This is gonna be a good time and this is really going to beautify this part of the city," says Peabody Hotel Director Doug Browne.

The bang of the wrecking ball also, in a figurative way, signified the slow, but steady inroads being made in the city's hiring of minority contractors. For while Memphis' African American population has been dominate for decades, a record of providing opportunities for black owned companies in the construction and sub-contractor trades had been notoriously abysmal. In 1998, dozens of black contractors protested at the Cook Convention Center after a $66-million city construction project, at the time the largest ever in Bluff City history, went to a white contractor. City and County governments were much more forceful in pushing available minority work for the building of the eventual FedEx Forum. The white-owned Mortenson construction company agreed to maximize minority participation. The Riverside Demolition was awarded to the black-owned Nashville based company Nelson Inc.

"This company, Nelson Inc, is working with another minority-owned company from Jackson, Mississippi as a mentor, teaching them about the process so that they can pass it on," explained City Councilman Myron Lowery.

Just like the wrecking ball there's been slow, but steady progress until the past is only a memory.

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