Maybe it started when VECA
residents repurposed an old railroad track to become a neighborhood walking/biking Greenline. Maybe it goes as far back as the 1970s, when the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park
took their case all the way to the Supreme Court and won, keeping the 342-acre park from being chopped up by a proposed interstate. Whatever the early seeds that were planted may be, there's no doubt the renaissance taking place in Memphis is unmistakable and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With realizations from the tactical urbanism project A New Face for an Old Broad
, the almost overnight success of Overton Square
and the all-embracing food truck phenomenon, the momentum of these developments has taken hold and is marching far into the future. Let's just say Memphians still have plenty to look forward to, and here are a few examples of that future fruitfulness.
1. Big River Strategic Initiative
(which includes the Big River Crossing, formerly called the Harahan Bridge Project and the Big River Parkway)
What started as the Harahan Bridge Project, a bike and pedestrian boardwalk across the Mississippi River connecting Downtown Memphis to Downtown West Memphis, has grown to include a corridor that extends 1,000 miles from St. Louis to New Orleans along the Mississippi River under the umbrella project Big River Strategic Initiative. The initiative works to create a parkway that extends the length of the river, from Minnesota to Louisiana. It has currently set its eye on an Arkansas portion of the corridor from West Memphis to Marianna and recently gained approval via the St. Francis Levee Board to open up that section of the levee and convert it to a running/walking/biking trail. The trail will link to Memphis via the Harahan Bridge under Big River Crossing project. The Big River Crossing is a $40 million Main to Main project that will use $15 million in federal funds and matching grants and private donations and is set to open spring 2016. The Big River Strategic Initiative is also partnering with National Geographic and Mississippi River Trail Inc. to recognize the corridor as a National Geographic Society Geotourism Destination to promote geotourism along the Mississippi River. The geotourism designation will provide a national geographic website, a mobile app, a printed map and social media which will recognize and include branded locations along the parkway. No budget or opening date has been set for the parkway.
2. The Fresh Market
(on Union Avenue alongside a Kroger Revisited and a Kroger Reinvented)
Memphis is experiencing a veritable grocery store revival, as Kroger Co.
is investing $100 million in the Memphis market, and Whole Foods recently completed its expansion in East Memphis and plans on opening an even grander store in Germantown. Add to the landscape a new Fresh Market on Union Avenue in Midtown, a replacement Kroger down the street and a new and improved Kroger at the corner of Poplar and Cleveland, and Memphians have some food purchase choices. Construction on the Fresh Market location, formerly Ike's Drugstore at the corner of Cooper and Union, started in March and is expected to finish mid-August. This will serve as the company's third location in Memphis and will provide Midtowners with all-natural, organic and specialty items. Demolition on the Belvedere Apartments on Union Avenue marks the first construction move of many for the new 50,000-square-foot Kroger store on Union and happens apace with the multimillion-dollar renovation at the 1366 Poplar store. Another $50 million in investments from Kroger in the Memphis area will follow over the next three to five years.
3. Sears Crosstown Building
After a series of negotiations including a tax freeze and an $88 million loan, $15 million from the City of Memphis and $5 million from the Shelby County Commission, permits have finally been pulled for the $180 million renovation of the 1.5-million-square-foot giant on Cleveland. The 1927 former Sears, Roebuck and Co. regional headquarters, warehouse and store sat empty for more than a decade until Crosstown LLC purchased the site in 2007 with the intention of creating a vertical urban village. The $180 million renovation will begin by restoring and upgrading the existing building's shell and core, converting several floors for apartments and reconditioning the parking garage. Early tenants include Crosstown Arts
, Rhodes College
, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare
, Church Health Center
, Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), Gestalt Community Schools
and Memphis Teacher Residency
. The first anticipated opening date is spring 2016.
4. Graceland Hotel
Each year more than 600,000 tourists from around the world pass through the note-covered gates of Graceland with limited places to stay in the area. Graceland owners seek to remedy the situation by building a $70 million hotel. The proposed development will stand six stories and house 450 rooms as well as a restaurant, sports bar, theater, exhibition building and multi-use event center. The attraction will be built north of Graceland on 24 acres of mostly vacant land near the former Meadow Oaks Apartments. The project could open in August of next year.
5. Orpheum Theatre Memphis Centre for Performing Arts and Education
The Orpheum Theatre Memphis currently serves 70,000 people each year through its performing arts programs. Recently the 86-year-old movie palace broke ground on its $14.5 million new Centre for Performing Arts and Education. The 39,000-square-foot, two-story structure will have a 356-seat theater, a large, multi-use rehearsal hall and classrooms equipped with leading-edge technology and is intended to allow for more concerts and musicals and family programs and multi-cultural events. The Orpheum states it hopes to help enhance and expand performing arts education and professional development programming in the following areas: master classes by Broadway touring cast members; adult lecture series by local and national arts leaders; professional development workshops for educators; intensive workshops in musical theatre; career assistance and training to aspiring arts professionals; technical training in sound and lighting for students, schools and local non-profits; and non-profit management training for local organizations. A tentative opening date is set for next summer.
6. Truck Stop Restaurant
The food truck frenzy has not abated, and with plans to open a food truck-oriented restaurant, fandom for the traveling restaurants shouldn’t subside any time soon. Taylor Berger, the man behind launching Yo Lo, Chiwawa and Tamp & Tap, and co-organizer of the famed Tennessee Brewery Untapped, is half of the mind behind the new restaurant idea, which will be located at 2121 Central Avenue in the former Midtown Nursery location. The other half of the brain behind the venture is local attorney Michael Tauer. Plans include a building made from shipping containers and logistics that allow patrons to order food from inside the main building from a rotating choice of food trucks parked outside. The model combines small plates, drinks and desserts in addition to the food trucks' menus, one counter for ordering and an outdoor seating area. Spring 2015 is the projected opening date.
7. South Main ArtSpace Lofts
After what began in 2009 as a feasibility study and a mutual interview, Minneapolis-based non-profit ArtSpace Lofts Inc. will convert the 87,625-square-foot brick United Warehouse at 138 S. Paul Ave. in South Main to include 44 affordable live/work spaces for artists. The $12.5 million adaptive reuse and new construction project will include an outdoor performance patio and dog park, internally illuminated stairwells, color-changing exterior lights and 52 parking spaces. The existing United Warehouse building will have minimal changes because of historic tax credits. Partners in the project include the Downtown Memphis Commission
, the City of Memphis and the Hyde Family Foundations
. Several events have already kicked off an awareness campaign, including Art Lounge on the Dock, a free series of events held during South Main Trolley Tour nights taking place on the warehouse's loading dock and parking area. Plans are in a predevelopment phase.
8. I-40/240 Interchange
"Sometime in the fall" is the latest projected completion date for the I-240 widening project, one of many push-back dates for the now three-year-old project. The I-240 section of construction includes the widening of a two-mile stretch between Poplar and Walnut Grove, expanding from three to four lanes between two already four-laned stretches. The project also includes drainage improvements and noise-abatement walls. The cost is $46 million. The new interchange at I-240 and Interstate 40 should be complete in over three years, includes a 75-foot-high flyover ramp and a wider Sam Cooper Boulevard and runs about $109.3 million.
9. Chisca Hotel
The historic 300,000-square-foot building at 272 South Main has seen its share of history, including the first broadcast of Elvis Presley's "That's All Right Mama." Thanks to Main Street Apartment Partners LLC, who purchased the building, that history will be preserved. In a $24 million redevelopment plan, the Chisca Hotel will become an apartment building with 116 units and penthouses, commercial space including a restaurant, a ground floor plaza and a roof deck. Renovation should take close to a year and a half.
10. Bass Pro Shops
December 1 this year is the latest projected opening date for this $190 million project, which will include more than 220,000 square feet of retail space, a Big Cypress Lodge, a live duck aviary and an alligator pond, glass decks on the west and south of the top of the Pyramid that will resemble the glass walkway at the Grand Canyon, a restaurant, an aquarium, fish-themed bowling and a pedestrian bridge from Front Street to the hotel. The retrofitted Pyramid will become the second-largest Bass Pro Shop in the United States. The hotel will feature 100 Ducks Unlimited-style rooms and a spa and fitness facility.