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Bluff City Biz: Ford’s investment, our opportunity and Downtown parking with Carol Coletta

Welcome back to Bluff City Biz, where every Monday we speak with someone in the know about our top stories from the previous week. Follow along for insight into key developments and analysis of all things Memphis business.

This week, we’re talking Ford and The Daily Memphian’s new, in-depth series on the automaker’s planned EV facility and Downtown parking with Carol Coletta, CEO of Memphis River Parks Partnership

While some of our conversation centered around Haywood County and Memphis peer regions, we began by talking about Downtown and the momentum that the Memphis River Parks Partnership has seen in recent months. 


“Walk the Bluff Walk, travel Big River Crossing or drive Riverside,” Coletta said, “and you will see a new Tom Lee Park, a new Cutbank Bluff and a restored Cobblestone Landing all underway. These 14 blocks of connected riverfront at the city’s front door will change the way we think about our city and its potential, and it’s only 18 months until opening.”

Transforming West Tennessee: An in-depth series on Ford’s new Haywood County EV plant 


Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley speaks at Ford Motor Co. West Tennessee manufacturing campus unveiling press conference at Shelby Farms on September 28, 2021. (Ziggy Mack/The Daily Memphian file)

It’s been less than three months since Ford Motor Co. executives and local politicians gathered at Shelby Farms to announce the automaker’s $5.6 billion plant at the Megasite of West Tennessee in Haywood County, and since then Daily Memphian reporters have been fast at work to deliver specialized coverage on the massive investment, starting with an exclusive project examining peer cities and their relationships with auto manufacturers.

First, Don Wade took us to Chattanooga, detailing the contrast between B.V.W. — Before Volkswagen — and today and how the Appalachian city rebounded after being rejected by Ford. 

He then traveled to Spring Hill, which has had a significant relationship with General Motors since the auto maker began producing its now-defunct Saturn brand of vehicles there in the 1980s, before visiting Tupelo, where city leaders gambled their futures on 1,500 acres of land that eventually became the site of a $980 million investment by Toyota. 


Similar to the economic booms each of the other three regions felt after landing their auto makers, Coletta said the national press has already been a great thing for Memphis. While some Shelby County residents have wondered about the direct benefits our economy will see, Coletta says it’s up to us to seize the opportunity. 

“Of course, like most Memphians, I wish the city had had a ready site for Ford in, say, South or North Memphis,” she said. “But Memphis is the largest city close to the new plant, so now it’s our job to capitalize on the opportunity to lure suppliers to Ford and related companies.” 

Everybody’s talking about Downtown parking 


A rendering shows a view of the proposed Downtown Mobility Center at Main and Peabody. (Courtesy LRK)

We covered two Downtown parking stories this week.

First, the Downtown Memphis Commission’s planned $40 million Downtown Mobility Center took two steps closer to breaking ground. A commercial new construction permit was filed by LRK Architects on behalf of the project Monday, Nov. 15, and the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. approved financing through Renasant Bank during a special meeting Wednesday, Nov. 17. 


The parking structure, which would stand seven stories on the 1.3-acre surface parking lot just north of the Orpheum Theatre, is part of the DMC’s $62 million Downtown parking plan. It would include nearly 1,000 parking spaces and ground floor retail space. 

For Coletta, a centralized parking hub would only mean good things for the riverfront. 


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital hopes to build an employee parking garage on this vacant lot on A.W. Willis Avenue. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

“The Downtown Mobility Center allows us to have less parking and more park on the riverfront,” she said. “Its strategic location will serve large employers, nearby hotels, Downtown attractions and residents. To grow, Downtown needs a ‘park once’ strategy that encourages people to walk to multiple destinations in a single trip, which means we also need to invest in long-neglected sidewalks and streetscape. Our pedestrian infrastructure could use some love.” 

Also, neighborhoods reporter Julia Baker was on top of the conflict between Uptown/Greenlaw neighbors and ALSAC, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s fundraising arm, which wants to build a seven-story parking garage on the north side of A.W. Willis Avenue. 

The garage came before the Board of Adjustment on Wednesday, Nov. 17, which postponed the item to its Dec. 22 meeting. 

More Bluff City Biz


New co-owners of the James Lee House include Kito Lord (middle) and wife Sarah Steckel Lord (middle right). (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Adoring guests buy into historic bed & breakfast; changes planned 

The new owners of the old James Lee House at 690 Adams Ave. want to share the beloved home, built in 1848, with the people of Memphis. 

Velo at Shelby Farms requests closing extension 

COVID-19, labor shortages and “site work challenges,” have developers of the $37.65 million Velo at Shelby Farms project asking for an extension to the closing deadline of their original payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement. 

Inked: Olive Branch lands distributor; Uptown renovation nearing completion

Inked, our new column which highlights commercial real estate transactions from the week that may have gone unnoticed, launched last week, featuring a story about Farmers Business Network Inc., a farmer-to-farmer network and e-commerce platform based out of San Carlos, California which recently leased a 127,600-square-foot warehouse in Olive Branch. 

Whitehaven shows pride for Black-owned businesses during appreciation week

The I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood and Business Association hosted its fourth annual I Love Whitehaven events by showcasing Black-owned restaurants throughout the week.

Downtown board approved new PILOT for Medical District development

Developers of a planned $7.2 million commercial mixed-use property in the Medical District received a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) through the Center City Revenue Finance Corp., an affiliate of the Downtown Memphis Commission. 


Mayor Jim Strickland speaks during the start of the Renasant Convention Center dedication ceremony. (Brad Vest/Special to The Daily Memphian)

Renasant Convention Center boasts $200 million makeover

Memphis Tourism hosted an open house and dedication ceremony Thursday, Nov. 18, to celebrate the Renasant Convention Center’s $200 million worth of upgrades. 

Bioventus to invest $9.1 million, create 40 new jobs in Shelby County 

Durham, North Carolina-based Bioventus plans to expand its existing operations in Cordova, according to an announcement issued by Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe. 

Landers Center to undergo $35 million expansion, adding convention center space 

Landers Center is set to get a $35 million expansion adding a convention center, full-service hotel and a resort-style pool. 

Bartlett IDB approves city’s 1st TIF project

Bartlett’s Industrial Development Board approved the city’s first Tax Increment Financing district for the proposed $162 million Union Depot mixed-use project.

Movers & Shakers 

Regional One Health Medical Director of Ambulatory Services Dr. Cyrilyn Waltershas been appointed to the Tennessee Hospital Association’s (THA) Council of Inclusion and Health Equity. 

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