Johnny Cash memorial adds incentives at Midtown apartment project

By Updated: February 07, 2019 1:47 PM CT | Published: February 06, 2019 4:41 PM CT

The long-awaited statue of the Man in Black has been cast and is expected to make its debut in Cooper-Young this March.

In 2015, a grassroots effort that turned into the nonprofit Legacy Memphis began raising money to memorialize Johnny Cash’s first performance in 1954 at the historic Galloway Methodist Church at the corner of Cooper and Walker.

After attempts to place the statute on church property were unsuccessful, Legacy Memphis partnered with Olive Branch developer Focal Point Investments to place the statue in front of the multifamily infill development it's building next door.

Legacy Memphis is funding the 6-foot bronze statue of Cash for about $50,000, and Focal Point is providing engineering, land, foundation and lighting at a cost of about $13,860.

The majority of the developer’s cost went into researching and creating a color-changing LED lighting effect that will create a “ring of fire” around the statue.  

The statue will be located about three feet from Cooper Street on the sidewalk in front of the apartments, leaving room for people to take a photo or selfie.

The 25-unit studio apartment development is anticipated to be completed next week, and the statue, the work of local filmmaker Mike McCarthy, has been cast by Arlington-based Lugar Foundry and is anticipated to be unveiled in early March.

The development also includes three street-facing live/work or commercial bays.

Chad Fischer, Focal Point’s market director, said there is a waiting list of interested tenants and that the bays likely will be used as office space.     

The $3.2 million project received an 11-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) development incentive from the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Center City Revenue Finance Corp. board in October 2017.

The developers appeared before the DMC’s Design Review Board Wednesday, Feb. 6, seeking two additional PILOT years for adding public art and enhanced lighting.    

The DMC staff wasn’t convinced the developer’s 10 accent lights accentuating the columns between the three-story building’s windows and four gas flame lights on either side of the three commercial bays lived up to “enhanced architectural lighting.”

Though the guidelines are subjective, to qualify for the additional year of tax abatement the developer should go “above and beyond” functional lighting, using light design to activate the building or façade at night, staff said. 

“There are a lot of things we’d like to do with these smaller projects, but looking at the construction budget, this one spent as much or more as most of the projects I’ve worked on,” said project consultant Scott Bojko. “If there were 300 apartments, we’d be able to do more fancy things and that’s what we have to take into account. The fun is down at the street level and we wanted to treat the architecture as historic Cooper-Young architecture.”

After a bit of back and forth Wednesday, the board unanimously approved the extra year for public art and the extra year for lighting.  

“I don’t think this sets a precedent for approving basic residential lighting because it includes the art component,” said board member Deni Reilly.  


Downtown Memphis Commission Johnny Cash Focal Point Investments Cooper-Young
Michelle Corbet

Michelle Corbet

Michelle Corbet covers business for The Daily Memphian. Prior to, she was a reporter at the Memphis Business Journal. A native Memphian and University of Memphis graduate, Michelle covered business in Conway, Arkansas after college. Michelle got her start covering business as an intern at The Commercial Appeal.

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