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Gestalt Community Schools, operator of Power Center Academy charter schools in Memphis, has purchased the old Malco Majestic off Winchester Road for $2.5 million, touting plans for a new school building and other developments.
The property went back on the market three months ago after a highly touted movie studio and “entertainment mecca” planned for the multiplex in Hickory Hill was foreclosed on. Gestalt purchased it last week.
The charter group operates five schools in Memphis, two of which are located four miles southeast from the Malco Majestic on E. Shelby Drive. Those two schools, Power Center Academy Southeast Elementary and Middle, are poised to be relocated to a new facility on the Malco Property, the charter group announced.
The relocation would bring the group’s five schools within four miles of one another across Winchester Road.
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It was not immediately clear if the relocation would require approval from Memphis-Shelby County Schools, the charter’s authorizer.
“We believe the partnership between school and community is critical for a thriving education system,” Yetta Lewis, CEO and co-founder of Gestalt Community Schools, said in a statement.
“Hickory Hill is a flourishing community with a rich history; strong community partners; and tremendous opportunities,” Lewis continued. “Since our founding, one of Gestalt’s top priorities is to rebuild and revitalize the communities where our scholars live, learn and play. This broadens our impact.”
Property could hold new school building, housing, farm, fine art facility
Gestalt Community Schools has, in hand with Power Center Community Development Corporation, completed two other development projects around their schools in Hickory Hill, suggesting what could come of the proposed development at Malco Majestic.
Surrounding its other schools in Hickory Hill are Eden Square and Mendenhall Mall.
The charter group, also co-founded by Derwin Sisnett, who sits on the state’s Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, plans to request community input over the next two months.
The 80,000-square-foot Malco facility sits on 17 acres of land at 7051 Malco Crossing, on the southeast corner of Riverdale and Winchester. Initial community meetings have turned up ideas for “an urban farm, fine arts facility, green space for sports, physical fitness and social engagement and more affordable housing.”
Gestalt is restricted from creating a “first run” movie theater on the property unless Malco approves the space for that use, documents show.
Gestalt is planning a phased development of the area, according to the release, but it is unclear when building will begin.
Lauded ‘entertainment mecca’ plans for theater fell through in March
The previous project proposed for the Malco Majestic fell through in early March.
The brainchild of Marie Pizano, a local entertainment entrepreneur, and Darnell Stitts, president and CEO of ATWEC Technologies, who was providing much of the financial backing, the so-called “MVP3 Studios” was supposed to transform the cinema building and its land into a complex with multiple movie-ready soundstages, a television studio, a recording studio, soccer fields, restaurants and a hotel, according to Pizano.
The project was formally launched July 1 with much fanfare and a ribbon-cutting ceremony that received extensive media coverage and praise from area politicians and religious leaders, who said they hoped MVP3 — named for Pizano’s longtime self-run entertainment company — would bring jobs and energy to the area while also resurrecting a large building that had been empty for over a year.
“Basically what we’re creating is like a Universal Studios, Stax and Time Warner all in one,” Pizano said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A free-standing multiplex, the Majestic opened in 1997 and a year later expanded from 11 to 20 screens. The theater closed in March 2020, during the COVID-19 shutdowns, and — unlike other Memphis-area Malco cinemas — never reopened.
Laura Testino covers education and children’s issues for the Commercial Appeal. Reach her at [email protected] or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino