Program Develops Hands-on Experience

Women and minorities will get a little hands-on experience in Downtown development thanks to an expanded effort by the Center City Commission.

People who have participated in the CCC's Women and Minority Business Enterprise Committee's development seminars will build a "demonstration" home in Uptown.

"We will build a single-family house from the ground up as a class project," said Jerome Rubin, head of the CCC's WMBE committee. "This project will give people an opportunity to practice many of the things we talked about in the class."

Developer Henry Turley has agreed to sell a lot on Saffarans Street in Uptown to the CCC for the project.

Self Tucker Architects, the Memphis architectural, planning and interior design firm founded by Juan Self and Jimmie Tucker, will serve as the architects of record on the project.

"We're really trying to take this to another level," Tucker said. "To have the opportunity to actually go through several weeks of interaction with the development process is what we want to do. It will help those individuals interested in the development process and ultimately give them the confidence and background to do a real project."

United Housing Inc., a nonprofit that helps low- to moderate-income earners and first-time homeowners buy homes, has been tapped to serve as general contractor.

Populace Homes, which is already active in Uptown, will serve as the builder of the home.

"We will actually do the construction," said A.D. Jones, president and owner of Populace Homes. "I'm hoping it will give them an experience to see the construction process and some of the issues you run into.

"When we started out, we learned on the fly. We didn't have any guidance or mentors and we basically just jumped in."

Launched in 2003, the CCC's minority-outreach campaign is designed to encourage minority participation in Downtown's $3 billion revival.

Part of that campaign included tweaking requirements for development loans and tax freezes. Now, applicants must have a minimum of 20 percent minority participation to qualify for those incentives. The CCC also hired Rubin, a former city councilman who also served as community-outreach manager for Time Warner, to oversee the minority-outreach program.

The CCC began offering a two-day real estate development seminar to minorities interested in Downtown development.

Another round of seminars focused on teaching participants how to analyze the financial feasibility of a proposed project is slated for December.

"The program is evolving as we discover what works best," said Rubin. "But even in the early stages of the program we have made tremendous strides."

It appears the CCC's efforts are starting to bear fruit because more women and African-Americans are participating in Downtown development.

Lee's Landing Retail, Entertainment and Parking, a $9.7 million parking and entertainment complex under construction across the street from FedExForum, boasts 73 percent minority ownership.

Christine Wimbish-Diatta, a retired CPA from Oakland, Calif., is building a $3.9 million Microtel Inn & Suites at 362 S. Second, between Vance and Butler.

Self Tucker Architects is turning the historic Universal Life Insurance Co. building on Linden into an office building.

Nelson Inc., a minority-owned local general contracting firm, is redeveloping the building at 92-96 S. Main to condominiums .

"The Downtown renaissance is generating hundreds of millions in new tax dollars that are being reinvested throughout the entire community," said City Council member Barbara Swearengen Holt, chair of the CCC's WMBE committee. "It is critical to the success of Downtown that our African-American community is connected with, and invested in, this tremendous growth in our city."

The CCC's efforts recently were recognized by the International Downtown Association, which awarded the agency with a "Special Achievement in Diversity Award" at a conference in Portland, Ore.

"The program aggressively tackles one of the community's most deep-rooted challenges, it acts as a model for other areas throughout our community, and serves as a reminder that we are not just erecting buildings in Downtown, we are building a community," said City Councilman Rickey Peete, chair of the CCC.

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Downtown Minority Outreach

Manager: Jerome Rubin

Contact: 575-0581

Web site:downtownmemphis.com



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