VOL. 116 | NO. 185 | Tuesday, September 24, 2002
By Stacey Wiedower
Home, business owners give new Sam Cooper mixed reviews
By STACEY WIEDOWER
The Daily News
With businesses experiencing a downturn and traffic patterns
changing since the Sam Cooper Boulevard extension opened several weeks ago,
home and business owners in the area nervously await the long-range effects of
the new thoroughfare.
So far, expectations are varied. But, some inhabitants of
the area are taking a proactive approach to ensure the changes have a positive
effect on the neighborhood.
Were trying to stabilize the neighborhood, said homeowner
Gray Clawson, who is leading an effort to have the area bordered roughly by
Poplar Avenue, East Parkway, Collins Street and the Sam Cooper extension
designated as a conservation district.
With all these major roads coming through here, it needs to
become more stable. This conservation district would not only give us the
chance to stabilize the area, but also give us a say when all of this land is
sold as to whats built here.
The land Clawson refers to is a tract at the corner of the
Sam Cooper Boulevard extension and East Parkway. The section marks the last bit
of land in the area surrounding Overton Park available for development.
Theres enough room to probably get 60 to 70 normal size
homes in there with the size yards we have (in the area) now, Clawson said.
Weve heard all kinds of proposals for what will be put there. Were keeping
our fingers crossed wed like it to be a neighborhood.
The group of about 12 homeowners leading this effort has
been working to collect signatures for an official petition, which will go before
the Memphis Landmarks Commission when complete. The group needs 62 percent of
residents in the area to sign the petition; right now, about 50 percent have
signed, Clawson said. The area includes about 225 homes.
Getting the designation as a conservation, or landmarks,
district would ensure any new construction in the area meets specified
guidelines set by Clawsons group, said MLC manager Nancy Jane Baker.
It means that any demolition, new construction, habitable
additions or garages would have to come through the landmarks office for
review, she said. It helps to stabilize the area and raise the property
It might also help stabilize businesses in the area, though
Clawson said his group tried to include businesses on Broad Avenue in the petition
for the conservation district and did not garner much interest.
So, they were not included, but hopefully they will do
something, because thats a great area and they need to protect those
Tom Sanders, owner of Sanders Silk-Screening at 2595 Broad,
agrees something must be done to help the area continue to thrive now that
traffic has been diverted from Broad to Sam Cooper.
Its like a ghost town over here, Sanders said. Theres
very little traffic on Broad anymore, which is good and bad, because parking
was always a problem for customers.
In the 26 years Sanders has owned his business, the area has
undergone numerous changes, but the Sam Cooper extension marks the biggest
transformation, he said.
If the city doesnt do something quickly to address this
problem, the area is going to go downhill quickly, he said. Thats my main
Some considerations discussed for Broad include adding
flowering trees and lampposts to soften the industrial character of the area,
he said. The area also is ripe for revitalization, he added, and several
students from Memphis College of Art have opened galleries and studios in the
The Midtown Corridor East Redevelopment Plan, which included
the rerouting of Sam Cooper and brought a new school to the neighborhood, has
city officials interested in Broads potential, as well. Meetings have included
talk of turning the Binghamton neighborhood into everything from an arts
district to an open market cul-de-sac.
Were hoping there will be some revitalization to the
businesses in here to attract new investors for restaurants or art galleries,
Sanders said. The idea is to make the area into an arts and crafts center,
which would be great.
But so far, very little is actually being planned for Broad.
Dewana Ishee, operator of Broadway Pizza at 2581 Broad, said
she is disappointed that so far, the only change Broad has seen is reduced
She said business at the restaurant which fronts Broad,
with the Sam Cooper extension now running behind it has been dramatically
affected by the change in traffic patterns.
Most of the businesses in this area dont advertise our
advertising was from people driving to work Downtown, Ishee said. And now
with so many people staying on the new Sam Cooper, all thats been eliminated.
To address the problem, Ishees parents who own Broadway
Pizza have placed a flashing sign in their front yard, which faces the Sam
A lot of people have mentioned the sign, so I know people
are seeing it, Ishee said. But we are usually packed in here, and its just
not now. Business is hurt a lot.
Sanders, who actually placed his property on the market last
year and considered relocating, said he now plans to wait and see how the
changes will affect the area in the long run.
Im optimistic about it, because were just two or three
blocks from Overton Park and the parkway, but we just dont know what the
future holds, he said.
Its like weve just been capped off over here. At one
time, this was a very vital area. Its this quaint little section of Memphis
that could be really nice.
One concern home and business owners have about the area is
increased crime now that traffic flow is lighter on several streets. A new $3.3
million police precinct at 426 Tillman St. will open soon, which residents and
business owners hope will counter the potential problem.
Although no one knows for certain how the changes ultimately
will affect the neighborhood, Clawson said his outlook is positive, especially
if his groups request for the conservation district is approved.
Were working hard to make the area livable, and I think
three to four years from now, were going to be sitting in a completely
different neighborhood, he said.