When Sam Goff joined the Midtown Republican Club meeting last night, he came directly from the City Council. As head of the Midtown Memphis Development Corporation he has been involved in the Belz development planned for Union at McLean.
“I came to Memphis in 1985, when I was working for the Belz family. I was fighting with them this afternoon,” he said, discussing the issue of the Belz proposal to build on that corner and put a gate at Idlewild and Union. But both sides got a win at the Council, according to Goff. “There will be a left turn at Union and McLean and one at Belvedere and Union,” he said, explaining that the traffic flow dispersal that would have happened had a gate been at Idlewild would have caused trouble for Lemaster residents and Grace St. Luke students.
The plan won both sides’ approval. Goff dismissed any possibility that Belz would not be able to go forward with the project. “Jim Strickland indicated it was high on his agenda. He wanted it done.”
Goff said “I fell in love with the city (after he moved here). It’s the people who give Memphis its mojo,” he said, adding that Memphians are genuinely nicer and friendlier than other cities he has worked in. “And right now is a tremendously exciting time to be here.” He credits Bass Pro and St. Jude for some of the movement.
“You might as well call us the twin cities: Memphis/St. Jude,” he quipped. St. Jude’s recent announcement that it will increase and create many more jobs will be a tremendous boon.
And he’s high on the Crosstown project, too. “There’s so much going on there,” he said. “They are adding a 400 seat live performance theater, designed by the people who did the Steppenwolf theater in Chicago. The city will put a school in it. There will be retailers. The primary tenants, especially St. Jude and the Health Center are committed. Already 90% of it has been taken.”
As head of the Midtown Memphis Development Corporation, Goff can take some of the credit. “Eight years ago some of us were looking at Midtown and started figuring out how to make it more livable, walkable and bicycle friendly.” Included in this group is Looney Kiss Architects, Playhouse head Jackie Nichols, realtor Linda Sowell, people from Christian Brothers and the Overton Park Conservancy. They meet once a month and address issues.
“We lost the battle for the church (on Union and Cooper), but we got bike lanes and worked with Chick Fil A to keep some of the facade of the church there. Bob Loeb has a vision and helped Overton Square and now he’s looking at Broad. We’re getting the 19th century club renovated and another restaurant in the building across the street currently being demolished.”
Goff mentioned the tear down of the French Quarter Inn, which he concedes had to happen. However, “I was general manager there – when it got four stars – and my wife and I were married in the lobby, so I have fond memories of it.”
Other topics facing the group include the greensward and water retention. “The new garage (at Overton Square) hasn’t solved the problem,” Goff said, and we still have a big issue with Lick Creek flooding and clogging things up.”
For the Evergreen resident, there is also another project. “I currently have every intention of running for the County Commission for the seat held by Melvin Burgess in 2018.” Burgess, Goff says will retire after this term.