VOL. 118 | NO. 140 | Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Pinch District Looks to New Future
FedExForum means big changes for areas business mix
The Daily News
A new era in Downtown entertainment dawned Saturday as
control of FedExForum went into the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. The NBA
team is moving in, and the University of Memphis Tigers and major events and concerts
soon will follow.
The move signals an unknown future for The Pyramid, and
Pyramid Utilization Committee members are still working to decide the Downtown
landmarks fate. Until a decision is revealed, the surrounding community is
left wondering what will happen to its neighboring landmark. Many believe the
shift will result in a new dawn for the Pinch District.
I would say there is no area more ripe for development
right now than the Pinch area, said Jeff Sanford, president of the Center City
Commission. I believe the Pinch will continue to develop, regardless of what
happens to The Pyramid.
New clientele. The
Pinch has served as a viable entertainment district, especially during
basketball season when Grizzlies and University of Memphis fans funneled in and
out of its bars and restaurants before and after games. But those days are over, meaning businesses located in the district must alter their
target clientele. And many are sure to focus on residents, as the area immediately
surrounding the Pinch District is about to see a significant influx of
The Uptown Revitalization Project, a mix of affordable multifamily
and single-family development, will add thousands of residents to the northern
fringe of the Pinch. And immediately in the district, there is hope of new residential
There is a market, said Julie Ray, president of the Pinch
District Association and owner of Cafe Francisco, above which she plans to add
apartment units in the next year. There is a huge demand. I have people ask me
all the time, As soon as yall get the apartments finished, let me know. And
were only going to have five or six.
A business mix. Pinch
patrons can still find a handful of restaurants and bars in the district. But
the area is no longer just home to entertainment and dining venues such as T.J.
Mulligans and Cafe Francisco. Businesses including
Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects, which relocated to North Main Street
last fall, are diversifying the Pinchs business mix.
There is also a growing number of
businesses focused on residential needs, as Uptown Place, a mixed-use
commercial development on Auction Avenue between Second and Main streets,
recently opened with a convenience store and Subway restaurant.
Another recently added service that focuses on the needs of
residents in the Pinch area is Downtown Animal Hospital.
I think it will become more residential and that more
businesses will move in, depending on what happens with The Pyramid, said Dr.
Susanne Heartsill, owner of Downtown Animal Hospital
and a Harbor Town resident. I think it will do nothing but help our business,
and of course living down here, Im really excited that more things are moving
Changing population. The
districts daytime population will get a major boost in the near future, as expansion
plans at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital will add some 2,000 employees to
the immediate area.
If I stop and think who the consumers will be in the future,
its easy for me to see a lot of residents in the area, from Mud Island to
North Memphis, Sanford said. And its easy for me to imagine a large number
of daytime employees, not just from St. Jude, but from other surrounding
Downtown areas. And then I add to that the consumers who will be coming to The
Pyramid for whatever its future use is.
Ray said her business attracts an array of customers, including
St. Jude employees. With the hospitals presence, not to mention the proximity
of Cook Convention Center and Mud Island, its hard to imagine that the area
isnt targeted more frequently for development.
I dont get why people arent down here building like
crazy, Ray said. Thats one of the main reasons I picked this area.
The big question mark. A
major player in the areas future is The Pyramid. The city and county still owe
roughly $30 million on the arena. That, coupled with the fact that the building
is a major landmark in Memphis skyline, makes it safe to assume the structure wont
be torn down.
I believe a new use will be found for The Pyramid, said
Sanford, a member of the Pyramid Utilization Committee. I dont know yet what
that use will be, but under any scenario, the new Pyramid will draw crowds of
Revitalization on the horizon.
Heartsill predicts that underused properties will
begin to undergo revitalization once The Pyramids future is determined.
I think its going to be a definite positive change, she
said. Hopefully, a lot of these older buildings will get revamped and it will
continue to look better.
Plenty of vacant land exists in the area, and the Pinch is
dotted with a plethora of parking lots that will soon be empty from the loss of
basketball games and concerts.
It is very likely, in my mind, that new development will
take place on that vacant land, Sanford said of the areas privately held parking
lots. I would much prefer to see new development take place along Front Street
on the eastern side of The Pyramid and new parking arrangements be found for
future use of The Pyramid.
Mixed uses. No matter
what becomes of The Pyramid, its likely that the future Pinch District will
not focus primarily on one type of consumer, but a mix of residential,
entertainment and small commercial users.
The bottom line is I see a whole lot of customers for all kinds
of retail, Sanford said. The neighborhood could become somebodys local dry
cleaners, restaurants and entertainment, service retail that supports business
in the area, copy centers, gas stations, convenience
stores. I could envision almost anything.