Sunday, July 27, 2008

There Shouldn't Be A Prayer For This Pyramid Offcer

With The Pyramid, there’s no reason for city and county governments to treat it like a fire sale.

Or a fire and brimstone sale.

Perhaps, the worst idea that’s been floated yet for the future of the city’s most iconic structure is to sell it to Cummings Street Missionary Baptist Church for $12 million, which would be just enough to cover the remaining debt service that taxpayers have to pay on the building.

While some county officials say that it’s better than leaving the building empty, it’s hard to see why. While the conventional wisdom is that Bass Pro Shops will end up in The Pyramid (particularly since the Ericson Group bowed out of the competition), even if the retailer wasn’t interested, the church idea should get a rejection notice.

After all, the church’s positive economic impact on downtown would be negligible and that was supposedly the reason that city and county governments were looking for potential tenants for The Pyramid. Because of the lack of economic positives, if city and county governments are willing to consider selling the abandoned arena to the church, the asking price should be north of $12 million.

If it ends up that the church offer is the only one on the table in three months, it’s just time to take The Pyramid off the market until there is a real market for it.

We’ve been waiting 17 years for the building to be a daily draw for downtown. We can surely wait awhile longer.

Even if the church is willing to buy The Pyramid, it’s not a godsend for city and county governments.


jrrozko said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I am relatively new to Memphis and find myself caring more and more for this hurting and divided city. While I am on staff with a church as a young adult pastor (or, I would rather say, because I am on staff with a church as a young adult pastor), I am saddened by the statement, "After all, the church's positive economic impact on downtown would be negligible..." Saddened, not by the statement, but by the fact that it's probably true. That churches wouldn't labor to make major positive contributions to the infrastructure of our city is shameful at best. In my opinion, it is we who ought to be out in front leading the way in creativity, ingenuity, and resourcing toward the betterment of our city. This is a great hope of mine and the church whom I serve.

LeftWingCracker said...

1) I believe that the only person who seriously thinks BPS is going to come to the Pyramid and open up there is Robert Lipscomb.

2) IF (and, admittedly, that's a whopping IF) Cummings Street Baptist produces the money up front, wouldn't it be better than tearing it down?

3) Seriously, unless you believe we have cursed the city by keeping it open, would it not be better to sell to a group that has the cash than to tear it down?

Seeing the big pointy building torn down should be the very LAST resort, and I mean LAST.

vibinc said...

Couple of things:

1. The Pyramid isn't creating any positive economic impact mothballed. The City effectively mothballed the building when they gave the Forum right of first refusal on events coming to the city. If we're not going to allow the Pyramid and the Forum to compete then why not sell it?

2. Houston and LA have sold their old arenas to churches and those buildings live on (Compaq Center in Houston and The Forum in LA).

3. BPS is not happening, period. Anyone who thinks it is has been drinking too much of the Kool Aid.

4. If the City wants to retain control of the Pyramid, then they need to do SOMETHING with it. For all the talk of bringing bigger conventions to Memphis, there has been little or no talk about utilizing the Pyramid for any part of that. Why not? You can't do ANYTHING at the Cook with over 6000 people. The Pyramid could fill that gap, it's near by, it's easy to get to and from, now all we need are more hotel rooms in that area and some sanity from the people (SMG-shiver) who would manage the Pyramid as part of our Convention space.

5. I don't see how getting out of debt is the worst idea that's been floated for the structure. What is currently happening with the structure is, by far, the WORST IDEA.

If the idea of a church in an Egyptian Tomb is not darkly ironic enough for you, I don't think I can come up with anything better. As of yet, the city hasn't come up with anything either, except empty promises and moving goal posts. The City needs to come up with a plan for the building if they expect us to continue to pay for it. That plan has to be something other than cross your fingers and hope.

elaine said...

Isn't the Peabody expanding (into the space used by Muvico) to accommodate larger crowds for conventions? If so, then using the Pyramid for convention space would be a perfect fit.

Am I recalling correctly that Steve Cohen had at one time proposed using the pyramid as a satellite location of The Smithsonian? I like that idea. Perhaps the lobby could be used as a mini-Smithsonian or aquarium, while the main arena area would be available for conventions.

Another idea: my family recently went to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It's a huge indoor water park / hotel with several locations throughout the country. Something similar at the Pyramid would be a lot of fun, but of course somebody out there would have to be willing to actually build and run it. The pyramid has a lot of potential, but the big question is how long Memphis should hold out for a bigger and better idea to actually be implemented. I for one still hang onto the hope that something more fitting will come along to fill this landmark.

Exile On South Main Street said...

I would rather have a big cross emblazoned on the side of it than a big fish. Lipscomb seems to have serious misgivings about the church's ability to continue the maintenance and upkeep on the building, and I understand the caution raised by the prospect of this group taking possession of it only to go into foreclosure a year later. Nevertheless, IF Cummings Street can prove that they have the liquidity to pay for the building upfront, I would be in favor of the City Council commissioning an economic impact study to see exactly what the financial impact of the mega-churches in Los Angeles and Houston.

Zippy the giver said...

Bait and switch property warehousing, novel tactic. NOT.
Fire sale is not an option.
It's next to the freeway and the improvements were done, begin booking the pyramid again and revoke the right of first refusal from the catastrophically located Forum that causes unbelieveable congestion downtown. Better you should SELL IT TO A CHURCH.
BPS is not a reality, let's bring suit for the damages to income and revenue brought on by the lack of business that we could have booked with an equitable booking policy at the pyramid. Look at what it did to the North End. I can't believe no one has done it yet. It could be a class action, have 25 people been negatively affected? Bet they have.
When enough actions done have a negative effect on a location to the point of destroying an economy of a whole neighborhod or district, and they point to a clandestine strategy that could be proven to have no other outcome, I think you could call it collusion or conspiracy or organized crime. Whatever it is , the only way to stop it is to takes it's fuel away, it's money, and to do that legally, you'll have to sue.
This whole thing stinks of idiocy and covering it with Jesus is inappropriate.

bob said...

Cummings St offers $12M.

I fully expect BPS to come in with a much bigger offer: $30M. As in, "You pay us $30M and tax incentives and we'll take the thing off your hands."

Lipscomb is so certain of the really big BPS deal coming through, and soon, he has not signed the agreement wherein BPS offered to give the City $30K a month to defray some of our mothball costs.

Our mothball costs, in fact, are $585,000/yr. That's because we outsource the job to the folks who also take care of the Convention Center. They are disinclined to to try and save us any money because cutting corners would expose them to greater liability if something goes wrong. Nor, for similar reasons, are they inclined to take advantage of any of the City's existing resources.

But that's chump change compared to the big fish Lipscomb expects to land.