Making the old new again is the secret sauce of the booming neighborhood
by Toby Sells
Dozens of young faces happily huddled close to the glowing campfires of Loflin Yard.
A bluegrass mandolin tinkled softly just above the rowdy din of their conversations that hovered over the yard. The Saturday-evening air was breezy, chilly. But the young revelers just inched closer to the ringed (and L.L.-Bean-perfect) camp fires, and dug their hands farther into their trendy jackets and vests.
A glance over a craft beer and across the yard itself revealed the white facades and landscaped edges of the brand new condos at South Junction, where many of the revelers likely lived. Cars lined Carolina Avenue. The bar was busy, the energy was high, and the whole scene was — without a doubt — vibrant. No one could have imagined this three years ago.
“When I was in high school, I never would’ve thought in a million years that Florida and Carolina and Georgia would be a residential area,” Josh Whitehead, director of the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development, told the Memphis Flyer last year. “It was one-story, kind-of-cool brick warehouses. But at night, it was, you know, spooky. The street lights were always out, and it was all these dark brick warehouses from a thousand years ago.”
About a year ago, investors spent about $880,000 to create Loflin Yard. They transformed a former key shop into a bar and light restaurant. They transformed a former barn into an event space. They transformed a small grazing pasture (the barn used to house horses for Downtown carriages) into that Saturday-night gathering spot for all of those new faces.
That transformation process — that turning of a former X into a new Y — is the equation, the road map, the playbook, the sure-fire no-brainer and, yes, the secret sauce of the massive comeback of the entire South Main Historic District.
A fraternal headquarters changed the look of the Memphis skyline
by Vance Lauderdale
In 1926, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks constructed one of the most impressive structures ever erected in our city — the 12-story tower at Jefferson and Main (shown here) they would call, quite simply and logically, the Elks Club Building.
Crafted by the Memphis firm of Mahan and Broadwell, this was a combination lodge and hotel that was, according to a promotional brochure, “attractive in design, mammoth in size, and furnished luxuriously and in excellent taste — simple dignity without in any way losing the informal, homelike air of a true club.” Erected at a cost of some $1.3 million (an enormous sum in the 1920s), the new Elks Club featured “150 delightful rooms with bath and outside exposure, circulating ice water, free electrical fan service, and a new and sanitary coffee shop.” That was just the hotel portion of the building, which was open to the public.
The Elks themselves enjoyed considerably fancier amenities. The building included a complete gymnasium that would allow members to “enter the day’s work with new zest, boyish vim, and vigor”; a billiards room with “first-quality tables, balls, cues, and scoring equipment”; a huge indoor swimming pool with “crystal clear waters”; a “spacious, airy, and inviting” six-lane bowling alley; a handball court “pulsing with life and action”; and “one of the most attractive ballrooms in the city.” All that was in addition to the Club Grille, the coffee shop, the library, the lounge, and the Turkish baths, where Elks members “may receive the expert attention of trained masseurs, and sally forth thence refreshed and invigorated.”
by Jon W. Sparks
Phil Trenary, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, wants a job. Actually, multiple jobs.
He’s glad to see St. Jude bringing new ones Downtown, but he’s equally happy when any jobs come into Shelby County.
“The Chamber doesn’t care where a company is as long as it remains in Shelby County,” he says. “We want it to be here because it’s our tax base, our community. That’s what determines how we look going forward.”
So as far as the Chamber was concerned, it wasn’t about getting ServiceMaster to relocate Downtown, it was about keeping it in the community.
That said, Trenary was glad to see the company’s decision to take the long-dormant Peabody Place mall and repurpose it into an office space that would bring some 1,200 employees Downtown to work (and eat and play).
“A vibrant Downtown and a growing Downtown — especially one that attracts millennials — is a key ingredient of economic development because there’s a race to attract the millennials, the talented young creative class out there,” he says.
by Jimmie Tucker
This is an exciting time for cities. Innovative leaders, policies, and strategies are driving progress in metropolitan areas and regions across the world. Memphis is no exception, and I am glad to be engaged in projects that are creating a positive impact on our communities and helping local residents reimagine a vibrant city.
What gets me most excited about our work as architects is the potential for equitable transformation — that even the most underserved areas have the possibility of becoming vibrant neighborhoods. I firmly believe that each building we design should enhance the quality of the life of its occupants and enrich the architectural fabric of the community.
Through first-hand experience I understand the challenges of engaging in community revitalization from multiple perspectives. For the past 10 years I have been architect and developer of the Universal Life Insurance Building. It is a project that has spanned the recession and three city administrations. It has been a challenging project but one that has taught me about the importance of tenacity and partnerships, as well as creative financing and community engagement. Through an innovative partnership with the City of Memphis and with the last amount of critical funding from First Alliance Bank, the project will move forward in June 2017.
by Jon W. Sparks
In a recent meeting of the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Design Review Board, Chairman Ray Brown issued a warning: “If we don’t start getting serious about how we are going to attract people back to this city, this city is going to die. And one of those ways is the quality of the public realm and public art.”
His work on the Design Review Board involves review and approval of projects that have been given incentives by the DMC. (For a list of projects, see Page 32).
Brown is principal of Ray Brown Urban Design, a practice that focuses on how people engage with cities. For years, he has called for a more focused and consistent approach to the way that Memphis grows and develops.
by Samuel X. Cicci
Sometimes, all the dominos fall in the right direction. Last year, the architecture and design firm formerly known as Hnedak Bobo Group successfully stabilized its new San Diego branch and took over the reins from founder Kirk Bobo. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have two industry veterans at the helm when change is afoot. Principals Rick Gardner and Terri Struminger have both been in the business for more than 25 years, and learned leadership on the job as Bobo eased into retirement. When they took over, Gardner and Struminger felt as if it were time for the firm to head in a fresh direction.
One of the keys words driving the new space’s design was collaboration. “Before,” says Gardner, “the cubicles were about five feet high. You could get lost in them, and in fact hide from people. I want senior members out in the middle of the environment, teaching young people about our practice. We’re all learning something from someone else and it’s really important that the people who have been working here for over 30 years are able to impart their knowledge.”
The latest articles from the print version of Inside Memphis Business — plus excerpts from our weeklyTip Sheet.
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