Loeb Properties antes up on University District with purchase of former Newby's buildings

Memphians may not have to graduate from Newby's after all.

Venerable Memphis developer Loeb Properties Inc. has expanded its retail portfolio with the purchase of the recently shuttered Newby’s bar and music venue on the Highland Strip.

Loeb, operating as Highland University District LLC, paid $450,000 for the two adjacent properties at 535 and 539 S. Highland St.

Built in 1927, the properties total a combined 10,200 square feet, according to Shelby County Assessor of Property data. Paragon Bank foreclosed on the buildings in July 2014.

Loeb Properties president Bob Loeb said a record amount of public and private investment in the University of Memphis district prompted his company's interest in Newby's.

"The recently updated Master Plan by the University of Memphis, Walker Avenue Streetscapes by the UNDC (the University Neighborhoods Development Corporation), and the Highland Row development are all proof," Loeb said. "We are excited to be a part of the community effort to enhance the University District."

The area is experiencing a renaissance, thanks to public and private investment.

Milhaus Ventures, in partnership with Poag Shopping Centers LLC, is investing $58 million in the mixed-use Highland Row project. Located at Highland St. and Midland Ave., it will feature 32,000 square feet of retail space, 354 apartment homes, a 511-space parking garage and land for 35 townhomes.

Construction on Highland Row began in December, and the first apartments are scheduled for a fall delivery.

Another private developer, Rael Development Corp., recently completed phase one of a new apartment project and already is under construction on phase two. Located at 3655 Southern Ave., Gather on Southern is 100 percent occupied, and its sister property, at 3595 Southern Ave., is set to open in the fall.

The University of Memphis updated its campus master plan in 2014, and the UNDC is managing a $529,000 Tennessee Department of Transportation Grant to improve Walker Avenue's streetscape and make the street more pedestrian friendly.
Now it's Loeb's turn to get in on the University District action.

Newbys has cleanup and maintenance issues, including parking and flooding concerns, that will be Loeb's first priority and should begin imminently.

"Our objective is to upgrade the character of the Strip and make the old new again," Loeb said. "The revitalization of Newby's will add to the momentum of the University District."

Making "the old new again" is familiar ground for Loeb Properties. The developer has generated much goodwill in the Memphis community, thanks to its revitalization of the Overton Square entertainment district in Midtown. It has received numerous accolades for that project, including Bob Loeb's recent Memphian of the Year recognition by Memphis Magazine.

Read more articles by Jane A. Donahoe.

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