VOL. 129 | NO. 133 | Thursday, July 10, 2014
By Amos Maki
Everything about the redevelopment of Overton Square followed a script.
Memphis product Lord T and Eloise’s recent performance at Thursdays Squared is just the latest in the growth of Overton Square as an entertainment option in the city.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
But weather, or bad weather for that matter, can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans.
After acquiring Overton Square and spearheading construction and leasing, landlord Loeb Properties wanted to activate the revived entertainment district with programming that would draw people to the revitalized district.
Events like Bluesday Tuesday and Thursdays Squared regularly draw hundreds of revelers interested in hearing music and exploring the remodeled square, but Mother Nature hasn’t always cooperated, especially in June, which was the second-wettest June in Memphis on record.
“The programming at Overton Square is continuing to evolve as we figure out what works best,” said Amber Leet, venue project manager. “Attendance has varied at our events, from smaller events that draw a couple hundred to larger parties of 1,200 to community festivals of over 10,000.”
“We’ve learned that it takes time to build a consistent programming model and that weather is an important factor to consider in our planning,” Leet said.
Loeb officials have been meticulous in their efforts to develop and relaunch the square, from land acquisition to tenant signings and now programming.
“Each phase of Overton Square – acquisition, construction, leasing and programming – has been very intentional,” said Louis Loeb, executive vice president of asset services. “We had to learn to be flexible with the timing of each phase. However, some have lasted longer than expected, and others have grown earlier and faster than we thought they would.”
Spacing out tenant signings and openings is a small but important way to maintain interest in Overton Square’s resurgence.
“Overton Square has really grown organically,” said Aaron Petree, vice president of brokerage for Loeb. “We worked from a well-thought-out marketing plan, but we try to make a practice of announcing leases as they are signed. We prefer to share good news as soon as possible. Each lease provides momentum that encourages the next one, which has resulted in good timing at Overton Square.”
One of the reasons the original Overton Square failed was because it eventually became a one-trick pony; it had a lively restaurant scene but little else to maintain a steady, diverse stream of visitors.
To avoid that fate, Loeb has focused on a mix of uses, signing several athletic or sports-based businesses and boutique clothing and food shops in addition to the restaurants.
Loeb Properties unveiled a new branding campaign for the district and installed a wide variety of public art around the Square. Loeb is constantly searching for events or partnerships designed to generate interest – ranging from a community message board to scheduling business openings and partnering with tenants for functions.
And there are still options for growth at the square. LRK Inc. outlined where new buildings could be placed and said the revamped district would be a friendly place for pedestrians.
The master plan for Overton Square shows where new buildings could be placed on what are now surface parking lots on the north side of Madison Avenue next to the Bayou Bar and Grill and Le Chardonnay. Another new building could be placed on Cooper Street between Bar Louie and Hattiloo Theatre.
For now, Loeb officials are concentrating on implementing their original plan.
“We are currently trying to catch our breath,” said Earl Williams, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. “Looking back on the last two years, a lot has happened at Overton Square. Right now, we are focused on getting five new tenants open for business, filling the remaining vacant spaces and refining our operations and programming.”