by Doug Carpenter
It’s common to hear even the proudest Memphis residents express a bit of envy over the cranes dotting Nashville’s skyline, visual proof of that city’s progress. It doesn’t take much looking, though, to realize we’ve got a fair share of crane activity happening in our own city, from Downtown to the suburbs.
In the Medical District, established tenants like Methodist Healthcare, UT Health Science Center, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are all expanding their presence. In light of International Paper’s new tower, Saddle Creek’s expansion and the new TraVure project, Germantown is adding significant mixed-use development. Overton Square’s faded French Quarter Inn is being replaced with Ballet Memphis’ state-of-the-art facility.
New construction is certainly a sign of progress, new energy, and vitality, and it’s not foreign to Memphis. What makes Memphis distinct, however, is that we’re seeing cranes sitting by historic buildings, structures that were once dormant and are now expected to thrive as family living, economic centers, and retail hubs. You likely know the popular chorus by now — the Tennessee Brewery, Crosstown Concourse, and Hotel Chisca are consistently (and justifiably) mentioned as examples of our penchant for adaptive reuse, but the list is even longer. The Hickman Building is getting new life as residential, retail, and office space; Hotel Napoleon is welcoming guests to the 115-year-old former Scimitar Building; and Old Dominick Distillery will send Memphis’ first local whiskey out of a renovated machinery shop. Even Big River Crossing represents an innovative reimagining of a historic property for modern use.
Memphis’ deep talent for making the best with what we have is shown over and over again in our clever reuse of assets.
Cranes illustrate Memphis’ ability to reimagine and reconstruct while maintaining the history and culture of the past for those in the future. Our cranes are restoring romantic, historic, captivating pieces of architecture, and combining them with new construction to meet the demands of Memphis’ core growth.
We’re lucky to have the gifts of many talented architects who are designing from the ground up on progressive, award-winning projects, and our landscape will continue to be shaped by their vision. But we have not forgotten the value of our past.
When you walk through our city 10 years from now, you’ll see the by-products of growth, both in the context of our history and the concrete manifestation of our plans for the future.
Doug Carpenter is principal of DCA, a creative communications consulting firm.
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