Developers of the $175 million Sears Crosstown revitalization project could be facing a major snag to its completion schedule.
Developers on the North Watkins Street project insists the city of Memphis must come up with $15 million in federal grant money before the end of the year or the project could be crippled.
Planned construction. As a Memphian those words conjure up the adage about "the best laid plans of mice and men can oft go awry." After all, just like mice, having the "cheese" to do something on a grand scale is even more vital to the plans of men.
But, with the revelation the cash-strapped city of Memphis is being asked to pony up $15 million as their share of the $175 million Sears Crosstown Development Project by the end of the year, well, like blindly stumbling into a mousetrap.
"I don't see how we can find $15 million this fiscal year or any one of fiscal year for one project," said Councilman Harold Collins.
"Getting the money is obviously going to be difficult in these times," added Mayor A C Wharton. "But, we're still supportive of the project."
As preliminary work on the giant renovation project in Midtown continued in small increments, all other financial backing targeted for its estimated 2016 completion appears to be on track. A reported $25 million in private funding matched with millions in tax credits and a major loan of $80 million dollars leaves only the city to fill in the final blank, or make that a final check.
Actually not in terms of supplying cold hard cash, but finding grant money for needed infrastructure, such as asbestos removal, improving sidewalks and getting the old Sears building hooked into the city's sewer system.
"Keep in mind the focus has been finding the funds other than those from the city of Memphis because of the city's financial conditions, so, the devil is in the details," Mayor Wharton said.
Two of those details could prove devilish to pull off. First the city's special projects guru Robert Lipscomb has to find the grant money. Two, the administration must get already skeptical city council members to approve the money for the project before year's end, which would place it ahead of other previously scheduled revitalization efforts.
"In the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure that project takes precedent over any other projects that's in the line for consideration," Councilman Collins said. "Sometimes you hear stuff and you're not suppose to be shocked with your mouth wide open in government, cause anything can happen."
You know, mice probably tell each other the same thing.