Council members not ready to approve purchase of mall

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Chief Administrative Officer of Memphis told City Council members Tuesday they should authorize the purchase of the Hickory Ridge Mall for $1.25 million.

According to Keith McGee, the mall could be used fire and police dispatch, among other things, but it was what he did not say that caused concern among council members.

Speaking to a council committee, McGee said the city could purchase the mall's concourse and its a nearby vacant restaurant nearby for $1.25 million.  However, he said, renovation and refurbishing costs on the structure are still unknown.

What is known, McGee said, is that furniture, construction, and overall upgrades would cost about $61 million over four years, and purchasing the retail space would take about $700,000 in tax money away from the city and county.

The costs were more than some council members were willing to accept.

"I did not know that the facility ultimately would cost sixty-one million dollars," council member Barbara Swearengen Ware said.

Council members spoke up right away, questioning the plan and not ready to give approval.

"I'm open minded about this. I'll take a look at it, but on the surface it looks like a bad idea," council member Jack Sammons said.

The proposal was ultimately tabled for two weeks, with some council members suggesting it would be cheaper to build a new facility on a vacant parcel of land.

Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas.