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Handy Park makeover signals more than an updated venue

Some of the sounds coming from Handy Park in the Beale Street Entertainment District in Downtown Memphis are chest-rattling forerunners of a wave of improvements under the guidance of an African-American-owned, general-contracting firm, Castle Black Construction.

Twin brothers Jarrett Logan and Jonathan Logan own Castle Black Construction, which – according to the Downtown Memphis Commission – landed a $879,000 contract that features renovations to the lawn, general seating areas, shade trees, lighting, access points and the addition of a retractable safety-enhancing security fence.

Jarrett Logan describes the enormity of the planned changes to Handy Park. Under the plastic covering is the statue of the park’s namesake, W.C. Handy. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

The Handy Park renovation contract – awarded to Castle Black on the basis of its qualifications and bid – resulted from an open bid process managed by Kimley Horn, according to a statement from the commission. It comes as billions of dollars of Downtown construction is underway and as watchful eyes monitor to see how much of that money ultimately is directed to firms owned by African Americans.

“We are really grateful and fortunate for the opportunity and the exposure Handy Park gives us in the downtown area,” said Jarrett Logan. “There are quite a few of us (minority construction businesses) and some are larger than we are. We get to have an identity downtown and on such a notable project.”

Jaske Goff, chief diversity officer and vice president of operations for the Downtown Memphis Commission, said the commission recently raised its expected MWBE (minority- and women-owned business enterprises) compliance percentage from 20 percent to 25 percent.

“We are intentional and invested in creating connections and capacity for MWBE firms,” Goff said in a media release.

The Logan brothers started out in 2003 building homes under the name Jonathan Jarrett Inc. That market fell on hard times, so in 2013 they rebranded their company Castle Black Construction Inc. Now a very successful commercial building operation, the firm’s resume includes clients such as Shelby County Schools, the City of Memphis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It’s been good,” Jarrett Logan said. “We’ve grown tremendously.”

Both brothers are fans of the HBO hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” In the series, Castle Black is the headquarters garrison of the Night’s Watch, protectors of the seven kingdoms from the forbidding lands beyond.

The Logans grew up in Lakeview Gardens, graduating from Westwood High School in 1997. Both graduated from Jackson State University, with Jonathan Logan later earning a master’s degree in construction management.

Castle Black does about 90 percent of its work on commercial projects, Jarrett Logan said.

The company has a full-time staff of 11 and another half-dozen or more part-time workers. Because Castle Black goes after work on the state, local and federal levels, it reaches beyond the Bluff City, with an office in Nashville and a presence in Houston.

Jarrett Logan said the Handy Park project is still in its early stages.

“Right now we’re in the demolition phase,” he said, noting the company waited until after the holidays to get started so as not to disrupt any holiday events.

Once the renovations are completed, the park will be “more appealing for people coming, say on their lunch break,” said Logan.

Fencing with covering now blocks general access and – from ground level – obscures much of the work underway. Some of the salvaged items from Handy Park will be repurposed at other Beale Street locations, such as the courtyard at Fourth and Beale, according to the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The statue of the park’s namesake, W.C. Handy (“father of the blues”), is under wraps and sheltered by the existing stage roof. Later, it will be moved to a new location that is more central in the park and where it will have better lighting.

“The entire park itself is going to have more lighting,” Jarrett Logan said.

Jon Shivers, director of the Beale Street Historic District, said the revitalization of Handy Park is a major win for Downtown.

“Beale Street is one of our region’s most important cultural landmarks and the world’s most iconic streets,” Shivers said. “This renovation is designed to elevate both the park and the experiences held there.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the team working on this project,” he said. “Everyone involved, including Castle Black, seems to understand the significance of the space and are committed to helping create a world-class outcome.”

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