The busiest time of the year along the Shelby Farms Greenline is also the busiest time of the year for Cheffie’s, an example of a business that is a direct beneficiary of being near the Tillman Street end of the greenline that extends east to Shelby Farms Park.
For the restaurant, summer is a time of lots of patio customers – some looking for a meal and others dropping in from the greenline for a quick snack, bottle of water or adult beverage.
“The business is based on really the weather; when the weather’s great, people are out on the greenline and they stop by for lunch and for dinner,” said Rick Saviori, general manager of the restaurant, which underwent a remodeling in 2011. “Then, when the weather is not so great, we are still getting some business but not nearly as great as when the weather is cooperating.”
Cheffie's is part of a retail center at 483 High Point Terrace that was built in 1947, according to Shelby County Assessor of Property’s records, in the post-World War II housing boom.
Steve Harvey (right) stops for lunch with his daughter at Cheffie's Cafe, a popular spot for riders and walkers on the Greenline. (Brian Johnson)
Angie Foree, a regular at Cheffie's Cafe, puts on her bicycle helmet after an early lunch on Friday, July 5. Foree has a health-related business in Cordova and said she bikes to Cheffie's often via the nearby Shelby Farms Greenline. (Brian Johnson)
The scale of the center – which includes a grocery store, a pizza parlor, pub, dentist and dry cleaner – was much more modest than nearby Poplar Plaza and Eastgate and other much larger shopping centers that would follow.
The same is true of the scale of the apartments closer to the western terminus of the greenline at Tillman Street where the Binghampton Community Development Corp. had been working long before the greenline to renovate two heavily blighted apartment complexes.
“We fought that fight a long time,” said Robert Montague, executive director of the nonprofit community development corporation that spearheaded the recent renovation of Tillman Crossing apartments. “When the greenline opened, it brought a lot of influential people to the area that maybe wouldn’t come on a normal day any other way. That really cranked up the heat on the blighted property there.”
The result was the owners of the complexes were among those property owners sued by the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. for neglect.
Montague credits the impact of the greenline with helping to “unstick a complex deal and help us secure that property and then to get it renovated.”
“In that sense, it’s been pivotal in helping further the community development efforts here in the neighborhood,” he said.
Tillman Crossing is now in the process of leasing up and includes a greenline office in one of the units that is a base for the trail on its western end. It joins another small apartment complex, Hope Community Apartments, across Tillman that is also another Binghampton Community Development project.
Both are about the same size.
“Clearly the 20-unit apartment complex is something we were able to get the capacity to digest and renovate. If it had been a megasite with 300 apartments, we wouldn’t have had the capacity,” Montague said. “I personally like that size. It’s the same size as our Hope Community apartments across the street, our senior apartments. They have worked well. The folks there have developed a real strong sense of community.”
Meanwhile, earlier this month the site of another apartment complex at 456 Tillman St. was leveled and sodded for use as a football field that will be home to a sports program by Memphis Gridiron Ministries.
“They paid to have it leveled and bought the sod. About 100 volunteers showed up to sod the field,” Montague said. “The 456 property is on its way to being a community football field.”
The economic and neighborhood impact of the Greenline is also being talked about in other parts of the city where redevelopment plans are taking root.
Scott Blake of the Victorian Village Community Development Corp., talked of a Jefferson Avenue Greenway as renovation work began this month on the restoration of the James Lee House as a bed and breakfast.
Greg Maxted of the Harahan Bridge Project, the pedestrian and bicycle boardwalk across the Mississippi River at the Harahan Bridge, is calculating the boardwalk’s impact based on the impact the greenline has had on neighboring businesses.
“The bridge is going to do that but multiplied because of the views, because of the spectacular setting and because of the proximity to existing trails and the existing downtown,” he said recently.
The boardwalk is part of the larger $33 million Main to Main Project in which the boardwalk across the river links Main Street Memphis with Broadway Street, West Memphis’s Main Street.
Paul Morris, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission and incoming project director for Main to Main, also uses a general greenline baseline as an example of what is possible.
“We need more citizens Downtown and what we saw with the greenline was a really successful project that didn’t cost a tremendous amount of money,” Morris said. “And it made the property values enhanced and people just more excited about Memphis and living in Memphis.”