Arrest of hotel developer not expected to impact Memphis projects

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - In the middle of a renaissance in downtown Memphis, all eyes are on the future of three pending projects after a hotel developer connected to the Memphis projects was arrested in California.

The uncertainty comes as news broke of the project's developer, John Wessman, now facing multiple bribery charges in Palm Springs, California.

The indictment said Wessman bribed the former Palm Springs mayor, Stephen Pougnet, with $375,000 dollars surrounding projects in California.

Sources close to the Wessman development said despite Wessman's retirement hours after the announcement of charges, he 'denies all the allegations'.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he did not have a direct role in the projects' incentive process.

"I don't believe I've ever met him and I've certainly never talked to him about these two hotels," Strickland said.

One of the two new hotels would soon be a neighbor to chef and restaurant owner Michael Patrick.

"Hopefully there is nothing wrong and we can move forward," Patrick said. "It could add to the over all development of the area."

The Rizzo's restaurant owner, like many other businesses along South Main, are eager for the continued awakening of the historic district.

"To see the growth happening, would hate for it to be stumped by something like this," Patrick said.

In a statement from the lead architect, he said while the charges come as a surprise -he didn't believe it will have any impact on the development projects in Memphis.

According to the District Attorney, Wessman is expected to turn himself in during the coming days.

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