A year ago, Loeb Properties Inc. was granted the green light from Memphis City Council for the funds necessary to construct a parking lot and detention pond west of Cooper Street – the last component in the more than $30 million public/private partnership to revitalize the once thriving Overton Square district.
Today, that three-story, 435-space parking structure is well under way, as are improvements to the existing infrastructure of the Square. Local Squared has been doing booming business in the old Yosemite Sam’s space for the past month it’s been open. Bar Louie’s build out at the curved building on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and Cooper is slated for an early March completion.
The former Paulette’s space has several prospects, and the Griffin House at 2116 Madison (formerly connected to Paulette’s via breezeway) has a letter of intent on the table following a major face-lift to the property.
Starting Thursday, Dec. 6, the first MemShop will kick off at the Square. It’s a holiday pop-up initiative from the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team featuring more than 40 local creatives, artists and artisans Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 23.
MemShop is about taking vacant commercial space and “activating it” for the neighborhood, specifically looking at the retail component of economic vitality, said Abby Miller, project officer with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team.
MemShop was implemented in November when nine pop-up shops and vacant storefronts were created for MemFix in the Crosstown area at Cleveland and Watkins streets, which was also the work of the Innovation Delivery Team.
“This MemShop at Overton Square is the first time we’re doing a longer-term sort of pop-up shop,” Miller said. “We do plan to continue this initiative throughout the coming years, looking at other neighborhoods in the Madison/Cleveland corridors, as well as South Memphis and Binghampton. The longer-term vision is to have more frequent and regular pop-up shops to help businesses and entrepreneurs enter the market or test new markets around the city.”
Miller called Overton Square an “uptrending neighborhood” where the data is implying the neighborhood is on the rise. She said MemShop is a type of “intervention” analyzing “where the neighborhood is and how with a certain level of investment, we might be able to tip the scale to really bring back that vitality to the core city.”
MemShop will include Cosmic Coconut, an organic juice bar with an existing store in East Memphis, in the 1,160-square-foot space where Fantastic Sam’s used to be. Give Yoga Memphis, which closed its doors at Poplar Avenue and Mendenhall Road in October due to the landlord selling the strip center to Broadway Pizza, will share Cosmic Coconut’s space.
Sache Clothing and Design, a 2-year-old small business in the South Main Historic Arts District, will set up shop in the 1,125-square-foot space where a bookstore was most prominent, selling winter apparel and accessories and doing demonstrations. Sache, which was also involved in MemFix, is in the midst of rapidly expanding its online presence and possibly brick-and-mortar locations down the road.
“We’re always on the constant lookout to try to create some opportunities with partnerships in the city,” said managing partner John Sylvester. “It’s a good opportunity for us to meet some new people and expose what we do to people that may not make it down to the South Main area.”
Meanwhile, Indie Style Market will pop up in a 2,375-square-foot area inside the Atrium building that once housed an ice skating rink in the Square. Indie Style Market will feature the work of more than 30 local artists, with vintage items, candles, body products, jewelry, hats, T-shirts, photography and more.
Indie Style Market is the brand that the Memphis Melange Etsy Team produces events under, with more than 200 members, and is seeking a physical venue as it launches its creative studio. MemShop is Indie Style Market’s fifth handmade event as a team, but first time doing a pop-up shop, said Memphis Melange Etsy Team captain Tonya Tate.
“This is a great opportunity for us, but we want Indie Style Market to be a permanent space where anyone can come, shop, purchase and meet the Mid-South indie design community,” Tate said. “We’re out of space at MemShop right now, and we probably could have filled three times as much space just because there are so many designers and so much going on in indie product development in the area.”
MemShop will be the last event in the Atrium building until Loeb Properties renovates it in January, said CEO Bob Loeb. That’s when construction will commence to “fill in the donut hole” opening in the floor.
“We’re going to build that space in so that we can create five, very usable retail/restaurant bays on the ground floor and about 12,000 square feet upstairs that can either be single tenant or multi-tenant space,” Loeb said.
Loeb said MemShop’s benefit is twofold from a landlord’s perspective. It will be a learning experience through the tenants that are participating in it and also from those prospective tenants visiting it.
“No. 1 would be the tenants who are test driving the space,” Loeb said. “We’ll learn from their feedback, whatever it is – positive, negative, how to change things for the better and any further interest they may have. No. 2 would be retailers who come and see how the pop-up shops work and get a little more of a feel of an activated Overton Square and imagine whether their concept might work there.”