photograph by Larry Kuzniewski

Why It Matters:

“The redevelopment plan is geared to fully leveraging our assets for our economy and also revitalizing residential neighborhoods that surround them.” — Dexter Muller, senior vice president of community development, Greater Memphis Chamber


Memphis and Shelby County governments; businesses and civic leaders in DeSoto County, Mississippi, and Crittenden County, Arkansas; Greater Memphis Chamber; Aerotropolis Steering Committee; Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division; Memphis Area Transit Authority; FedEx; University of Memphis; Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland; Smith & Nephew, Medtronic, and a host of major companies doing business here because of the airport, and an even larger host of logistics and related service companies; and numerous civic/neighborhood groups and churches.  

Leaders and Consultants:

John Moore and Dexter Muller, Greater Memphis Chamber; Arnold Perl, Aerotropolis Steering Committee; Larry Cox, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; Richard Copeland, Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development; Robert Lipscomb, City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development; Harold Collins, Memphis City Council District 3; Shirley Raines, University of Memphis; Tennessee Department of Transportation

Area Boundaries:

The Greater Memphis Chamber defines the Aerotropolis region as the 50-square-mile area centered upon Memphis International Airport. For our purposes, however, we are limiting its boundaries to I-240, Elvis Presley Blvd., the Tennessee/Mississippi state line, and Lamar Ave.

Area History:

Although the area that comprises the Aerotropolis has been prominent in the local logistics, tourism, and bioscience arenas, it also has become more blighted over time — particularly the Brooks Road corridor nearest the airport. In recent years civic and business leaders have touted the area as an “Aerotropolis,” or airport city, in hopes of spurring a Renaissance. Leaders would like Memphis International Airport and its greater surroundings to serve as a better gateway for out-of-town visitors and business interests. 

Current Conditions:

Aging buildings and haphazard development have led to widespread decline, from a cohesive planning perspective. However, the Greater Memphis Chamber describes the area as the largest single economic generator in Tennessee, with 70 million square feet of industrial space devoted to logistics (20 percent of the city’s total logistics sector). Several major capital improvements are underway or have recently been completed at the airport. FedEx is by far the largest tenant of the airport. Delta Air Lines is the major passenger carrier; though Memphis is a hub city for Delta, services have been cut significantly recently.

Ideal Situation:

Stakeholders hope not only to revitalize the area, but also to create the linkages that will make Memphis a true airport city. This means optimized, efficient logistics, making the region more attractive for relocating businesses. It also means a refurbished and more attractive Elvis Presley Boulevard, home to one of the biggest tourist destination in the South.

How to Get to the Ideal:

Reinvestment by public and private sectors is needed. The master plan creates the vision of what can be achieved in the area. Further leadership and resources will be needed to make it a reality. 

Current Funding Situation:

The Airport City/Aerotropolis Master Plan draws on a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a local match of $971,000. Meanwhile, $43 million in transportation funding is earmarked for improving Elvis Presley Boulevard. Significant private investment from area property owners also is expected. About $34 million in state money is allocated for the Lamar Avenue right-of-way. The City of Memphis has granted $1.2 million for a Plough Boulevard landscaping project.

Funding Goal:

Still developing. It will be an outcome of the master plan, which should be completed by late 2013/early 2014.

Jobs Created:

RTKL Associates won the contract to design the master plan, and the firm is partnering on it with local companies SR Consulting, the Carter Malone Group, and Community Capital. A2H, the Pickering Firm, Flintco, and many more companies have been and will be utilized for planning, design, architecture, landscape design, engineering, and construction work.

How You Can Help:

“Become familiar with the Aerotropolis concept, the unique position that Memphis can play in the global economy, and the benefits that success brings to all Memphians regardless of where they live or work.” — Dexter Muller, Greater Memphis Chamber


Dexter Muller, senior vice president of community development, Greater Memphis Chamber, at 543-3543

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