MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It was hailed as a way to revitalize a blighted south Memphis neighborhood. But four years after groundbreaking on Soulsville Town Center, critics are wondering if it's just a sham.
From the outside the Soulsville Town Center looks nice. But take a closer look inside and you'll discover the building isn't finished.
On the ground floor there are still dirt floors; grass is even growing inside the building.
Community activist Karen McGee says residents in this blighted community were promised a grocery story, restaurants and retail would be located there. But of the 72,000 square feet, just a fraction of the building has been finished and leased out.
"What you got is a big beautiful building. Nothing is going on but eye candy to say, 'oh look what we were doing in south Memphis,'" she said.
This despite the fact at the ground breaking in 2008, the Lemoyne Owen College Community Development Corporation bragged it was 70 percent pre-leased.
So what happened?
According to Jeffrey Higgs, Executive Director of the development corporation, "We had folks go bankrupt. Folks weren't ready to move in..deals that we thought had materialized didn't so it has been a struggle to get the space leased up."
Higgs says the building was never finished because they were waiting for tenants to sign leases. What was supposed to be a couple months has turned into years.
"Things have been moving slow," Higgs admitted, "but we have some good things happening as this year starts out."
McGee says she's heard that before. In the meantime she'll keep watching the grass inside the building grow.
"We want something south Memphis people can be proud of, and that we can use."
Higgs says when the building is full there should be 200 people working there. Of course the big question is if or when that will happen.