VOL. 127 | NO. 132 | Monday, July 09, 2012
A story from The Memphis News
On newsstands throughout the city
City Should Keep Square Revival Front and Center
The plan for the revitalization of the Overton Square entertainment district needs to move forward before it changes again or becomes even more complex than it is now.
The latest iteration of the redevelopment plan includes Overton Square becoming part of a Tourism Development Zone and Tax Increment Financing district that would funnel its anticipated increase in sales tax revenue to get the Fairgrounds renovation back on track.
That is a lot of weight for an entertainment district to carry – even one as storied as Overton Square.
On this editorial page in January 2010 when the plan for Overton Square was anchored by a supermarket, we noted then that the area was becoming a theater and arts district by virtue of the opening of the new Playhouse on the Square.
Now the theater district concept has been embraced by Loeb Properties after giving the supermarket anchor a good try in a bad economy.
The city of Memphis is to acquire much if not all of the parking lot where the Public Eye and Gonzalez and Gertrude’s once formed a solid row of businesses on Cooper from Madison to Union.
The city will then lease to Loeb through Overton Square LLC and Overton Square South LLC for a parking garage and a new Hattiloo Theater, which will front on Cooper next to Circuit Playhouse.
The city of Memphis gets a water detention basin beneath the 450-space garage that helps with flooding along Lick Creek that affects a part of Midtown greater than Overton Square.
Questions about how much of a partner the city should be in such development are legitimate, we believe.
The Westin Memphis Beale Street Hotel should serve as a cautionary tale. The hotel got built with a might push from former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and it has been a factor in the growth south of Beale Street. But we are left with a complex arrangement that years later is still being sorted out
Simpler is better. And not so simple is a slippery slope that becomes a temptation when developers and city leaders get close enough to envision dirt being moved.
In the case of Overton Square, the argument can be made that simple city measures such as bicycle lanes and on street parking on Madison Avenue have also played a role in reanimating the district.
The real catalyst so far has been the decision by Playhouse on the Square to go for it and with private support build a theater specifically designed for the productions it has brought to life in our community for more than 40 years.
There can also be no question that the commitment of a local made in Memphis company – Loeb Properties – has brought Overton Square closer to a comeback than it ever was when the properties were owned by out of town companies.