The long-awaited private development portion of Liberty Park could start going vertical next year, a pair of city officials said Tuesday.
The city is negotiating a ground lease with Capstone Development for a small hotel and continues to renegotiate a letter of intent with High 5 Entertainment, a Texas-based entertainment venue, that could bring bowling and laser tag to The District at Liberty Park, the city’s new branding for the northwest corner of Liberty Park.
The private portion of Liberty Park has been promised for years. The city of Memphis first announced hotel and mixed-use development plans in mid-2019. Then, in 2020, the plans changed and the city announced the deals with Capstone and High 5 Entertainment. Construction was, at one point, expected during 2021 or 2022.
Ashley Cash, the city’s head of housing and community development, said she expected both developments to start construction and go “vertical” in the second quarter of 2023.
Capstone is expected to build a 200-room hotel, 200 apartments and have a restaurant and hotel cocktail lounge on the site. It and High 5 are expected to open in 2024, the city said Tuesday. The city is also seeking another entertainment venue for the site. The development would also feature a new road — Larry Finch Lane, which is named for University of Memphis basketball player and coach Larry Finch.
The city is in substantial negotiations with Capstone on a long-term ground lease, said Mary Claire Borys, manager of strategic initiatives for the city’s housing and community development department. The leases are to maintain control of the city-owned land used for the project. Borys and Cash gave the update on The District at Liberty Park during the Memphis City Council’s committee meetings Tuesday. It comes as the city is completing construction of a youth sports facility, which will open in December, and as the city is seeking substantial state dollars for the planned $150 million to $200 million renovations to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and the proposed replacement of the Mid-South Coliseum with a soccer stadium for 901 FC.
Coliseum has some hope
Doug McGowen, the city’s chief operating officer, said he has encouraged those who want to save the Mid-South Coliseum to continue making plans for its future. He said the city would look for alternatives at the site if its large request of state funding did not come through.
For years, a dedicated group of community members have sought to save and revitalize the arena, which occupies a prominent place in the memories of Memphians. After Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland revealed his plans to replace the arena, they expressed hope it could be saved.
McGowen said the city continued to look at contingency plans for its big stadium ask — it has $684 million in plans for stadium renovations — if the state funding for those projects don’t come through. He noted the city was working on a contingency plan for FedExForum renovations, which entail a long-term lease with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, in particular.
The city has asked the state for $350 million in cash and permission to raise the hotel/motel tax to 5%. It has asked also extension of car rental fee and the sales tax rebate that captures almost all the spending at FedExForum. It wants those funding streams to be extended to 2053. The money currently pays off the stadium’s current debt and would likely pay off the debt associated with the forum’s long-term renovations.
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.