The Commercial Appeal

Target scouts sites for stores

Officials not commenting on possible Midtown locations

- By Cassandra Kimberly

Target Corp. officials where in town this week scouting potential sites for new stores, though no selection is expected soon.

Among the sites being considered are two in Midtown: the developmen­t at Poplar and Cleveland approved by the Land Use Control Board this week and the Fairground­s.

Target officials would only comment on the new 133,000-square -foot store scheduled to open in March at the 26-acre Ridgeway Trace retail developmen­t at 5959 Poplar in East Memphis.

“We’re also looking at a few other opportunit­ies in the Memphis area, but no decision has been made yet about a location,” said Target spokeswoma­n Katie Benscoter.

Last year, Target announced it was increasing its U.S. presence by 25 percent by unveiling at least 100 stores per year till 2011.

Rumors have been circulatin­g that the nation’s second-largest retailer is seeking a second new location in WSG Memphis LLC’s Midtown Memphis planned developmen­t.

What: A $180 million mixed-use project at Poplar and Cleveland approved Thursday by the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Developmen­t.

Who: WSG Memphis LLC

However, a recent visit by Target representa­tives to the Mid-South Fairground­s has left some wondering what the company has planned.

Memphis businessma­n Robert Loeb said Tar-

get visited the Fairground­s back in the spring, before Fair Ground LLC presented its proposed developmen­t agreement to city officials.

Loeb said Target is the only retailer Fair Ground, a team led by local real estate moguls Henry Turley and Loeb to redevelop the Fairground­s, has taken to see the proposed site.

“It was premature,” Loeb said of Target’s visit. “We wanted to see if they had any interest . They said if it was available, they’d be glad to take a look at it.”

Target is a perfect, upscale anchor that would draw other businesses to the group’s envisioned “lifestyle center,” which may also include soft goods, electronic­s, sporting goods and restaurant­s, Loeb said.

“We just wanted to present them with the site and our concept of the developmen­t and they were favorably impressed with both,” he said. “They’re looking for a Midtown location. If we can deliver ours, they’ll consider pursuing it.”

The Fair Ground agreement has yet to be signed by the city.

Thursday, the Land Use Control Board approved plans for WSG Memphis LLC’s 28.11acre, mixed-use developmen­t bounded by Poplar, McNeil, Court and Cleveland.

The master plans involve 100,000-square - foot and 135,000-square -foot spaces for retail anchors.

The plans also call for upscale residences, retail, office space, medical office space, a hotel and restaurant­s in a walkable, “urban village” setting.

WSG is proposing to transform Watkins into a “pedestrian- oriented” street enclosed by retail shops and wide sidewalks.

“This developmen­t provides an opportunit­y for new major retail uses that will be convenient to Midtown and Downtown residentia­l areas,” said Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Developmen­t deputy director Mary Baker in a staff report presented during the LUCB meeting.

Plans for the $180 million project named Midtown Memphis were first filed by Miami Beach, Fla.-based WSG, a division of WSG Developmen­t Co., in January with the Office of Planning and Developmen­t.

Last year WSG, a nationwide developer founded in 1995, bought the site near Cleveland and Poplar for $12 million and took out a $14 million constructi­on loan through Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

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