Lipscomb discusses the future of the fairgrounds

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The future of the fairgrounds has taken a drastic turn. Memphis city leaders have put the development deal with prominent builder Henry Turley behind them.

Memphians have debated about the future of the fairgrounds since Libertyland closed in 2004. Last May, the city got a master developer, but for more than a year the deal stalled. Tuesday Action News 5 learned the city is moving on from Plan A to Plan B.

Memphis Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb is now referring to the stalled fairgrounds development deal with Henry Turley in the past tense.

"The original developer - we couldn't reach an agreement on it, so like anything else, if you can't reach an agreement with one entity, you move on to plan B," Lipscomb explained.

Turley unveiled Plan A when the city named him master developer of the 170-acre plot of land in May 2008. He wanted to turn the fairgrounds into a retail hub, including a competitive sports facility and a big-box store like Target. But Lipscomb said Plan B is what the people want.

"We've had about 20 community meetings with different groups and every time we'd meet with them we'd take their ideas and fold them into the plan," he said.

The architecture firm of former Memphis City Councilman Tom Marshall is tapped to carry out Plan B which includes everything from sports and recreation to retail, but a "different kind of retail" - meaning no Target store. "The people said they didn't want a big box. So we thought about it and what we looked at is boutique retail." Lipscomb said he believes boutique retail will stand out.

"Why would I go from Collierville to the fairgrounds for a Target?" he asked. "It's just not going to attract the kind of economic retail that we want and we want to look at something that's not going to compromise existing retail."

Lipscomb couldn't get too specific. "We're talking to a number of potential clients. I'm not at liberty to talk about who they are, but I think people are going to be very excited about what we have in mind."

The new plan will also include the demolition and rebuilding of the Coliseum, an athletics facility, and housing.

The city hasn't revealed a timeline and the plan must be approved by the council.

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