Weekly Update

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As hopefully you know by now, promoting economic development and encouraging growth and job creation has always been a top priority for this administration. As such, we have made many improvements in City government to encourage those things.

One example is our Division of Planning and Development (DPD), led by Director John Zeanah, where they have greatly improved the processes and turnaround times for commercial building permit reviews. 

Two years ago, the average time to conduct those reviews was 18 days.  Last year at this time, the average had decreased to 14 days. This month, the average has been 8 days, which is under the division’s goal of 10 days.

The process is now transparent with an on-line map showing each application (Develop901 Project Locator) and an on-line portal with detailed information on project status including DPD action (Develop901 Citizen Access).

These efforts have helped the City achieve record growth over the last five years, with total permitted construction value in excess of $6 billion. 

Why am I telling you this?

A few weeks ago, you may have read this story where three commercial real estate brokers were quoted as saying permit reviews had contributed to delays in commercial building, along with supply chain issues and inflation. I reached out to each of the brokers and asked for the applications that they thought were unreasonably delayed by DPD.

After reviewing the three examples given to me, it is clear that there were no delays by DPD and that the brokers’ opinions were unfounded. It should be noted that brokers are representatives of owners and tenants in the sale or lease of property and are not the architects, engineers, or contractors involved in the permitting process and, as a result, do not have the details of an application.

Here are the three examples:

First, the opinion was that the review of the Chase Bank branch on Poplar Avenue took over 30 days. The facts, however, show that DPD took 8 business days to review and approve. What the broker may not have known was that the business took over a month to submit revisions.

Second, I was told that we are requiring 8 demolition permits for a property on Mendenhall south of Poplar. The facts show that the business had not yet applied for a demolition permit and that only one would be required.

Third, the opinion was that the review of the new Starbucks in Whitehaven has taken months to complete. While it has, the facts show that DPD has managed this project under three permit applications for the building, the interior, and the site plan. In all cases, staff reviewers took 10 business days or less to complete its reviews and return comments. What the broker may not have known is that the business took months to submit revisions.

While I know City government is far from perfect and I am sure that there are times when an individual review takes too long because human beings make mistakes and some projects are more complex than others, I am equally confident that the process as a whole has greatly improved. For our part, we will continue to do all we can from a City government perspective to “move at the speed of business” and to be a good partner assisting in the economic momentum our community is experiencing.

Oh, the places you’ll go: For the last several years (with a brief slow down during the pandemic), our city has been experiencing momentum on the economic development front the likes of which we have not seen in decades.

Well folks, the world is taking notice of what is happening in Memphis.

Our city is one of only two destinations from the United States highlighted in Condé Nast Traveler’s “23 Best Places to Go in 2023” covering 22 countries and six continents. That’s a big deal!

To quote the article, “Nashville claims a lot of national buzz, but the city of Memphis has been quietly reshaping itself to be the hottest destination in Tennessee.”

We have our challenges in Memphis, but we cannot forget that we also have so many reasons to be proud to call ourselves Memphians. Sometimes it takes something like this recognition to remind us.

St. Jude Marathon: It’s that time again! To all of this year’s runners—homegrown and to those from far and wide—thank you for your support of one Memphis’ crown jewels and the incredible mission for which it exists.

Each year, this event brings thousands of people to our city, and we could not be happier to have them. If you’re going to be driving downtown or midtown tomorrow, you may want to check here before you leave home as some roads may not be accessible.

To all the runners—good luck!

Enjoy your weekend!


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