August 03, 2015

Success of Defense Depot a Bright Star in Memphis History

Memphis Business Journal
The Memphis Depot Redevelopment Corp. should soon hold a celebration.
And by many estimates, the celebration is somewhat unexpected.
After all, who would have thought success could come from an environmentally hazardous, outdated and empty industrial park in one of Memphis’ most impoverished neighborhoods?
That description used to define the 642 acres that make up the Memphis Defense Depot. But the description fits no more.
Now it is home to big-name tenants like Cargill Inc., Allenberg Cotton Co. and UPS Supply Chain Solutions. Now it has a clean bill of health thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups’ efforts. Now its 4.2 million square feet are 80 percent leased and looking for a new owner.
MDRC is marketing the property for sale, taking offers on it through the end of the month with an anticipated closing in the fall.
MDRC formed in 1997 with the goal of purchasing, renovating and leasing the property so it could turn a profit. It was a tall order.
The Depot began operations in 1946 as a warehousing and distribution center for the U.S. military. Hazardous substances were used and stored on site. (Think mustard bombs.)
But today, cleanup efforts have all but erased environmental concerns.
Then there’s the location. It sits on Airways Boulevard in Southwest Memphis, an area decried for being dangerous. Luckily for the Depot, security is the one thing the site has in its corner, with a Memphis Police Department substation operating adjacent to it.
Today, the companies operating within the Depot’s walls collectively employ nearly 1,000 people, which is actually more than the original operation employed before its closure in 1997. At its height of production, the Depot employed 1,500.
More than $25 million was spent renovating and upgrading the facilities, all funded out of the project’s cash flow. MDRC brass anticipate the Depot will generate $1 million annually in new tax revenue after it’s sold, not including the money reaped from the sale.
It’s rare to see a public plan like this play out as it’s intended, and with a huge benefit to the taxpayer.
Congratulations to the MDRC. They literally turned a clunker into cash.