May family donates 250 acres to TSU

Would-be Bells Bend developers bring university into the fold

The May family seeking to develop large parts of Bells Bend has donated 250 acres of land in the area to Tennessee State University, which will build an agricultural research park there.

The Mays, who first announced their plans to build May Town Center a year ago, also will donate $400,000 to TSU to fund a faculty chair focused on sustainable agriculture. Their gift, news of which comes a day after The City Paper reported that State Sen. Doug Henry filed a bill to halt Bells Bend's urbanization, is the largest ever to TSU.

TSU President Melvin Johnson said the launch of the TSU Research Park and Center for Sustainable Agriculture is "the most transformative opportunity in the history" of the school. Construction of the Research Park is expected to begin in 2012, though that appears to be contingent on May Town Center as a whole being approved by Metro planners.

The land gift is split between 200 riverfront acres that will be used for farming as well as 50 acres inside the planned May Town Center the research park, which will seek to develop partnerships with businesses in the area.

Today's announcement is the latest effort from the Mays and their consultant, Tony Giarratana, to win public support for their plans, which have met with opposition from several local constituencies. The development team also has committed to funding the necessary infrastructure – including fire halls and schools – their project will demand.

For more details on today's news, click here. For our past coverage of the May Town Center debate, click here.