VOL. 118 | NO. 145 | Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Pinch Experiencing Transitional Period
Open spaces allow for retail, residential growth
The Daily News
Just because the future of The Pyramid is unknown, it doesnt
mean the lights should be turned out in the adjacent Pinch District just yet.
While the Pyramid Utilization Committee studies potential
uses for the Downtown arena, Pinch business owners and community leaders are
excited about the future, no matter what comes of the arena.
I believe the Pinch is and will continue to develop
regardless of what happens to The Pyramid, said Jeff Sanford, president of the
Center City Commission and a member of the committee.
Location benefits. A
quick look at the area reveals one major thing that will lead to the
One area businessperson certainly thinks so, as Rusty
Taylor, principal with Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects,
said its the best location in Downtown. And he should know, as the firm has
moved from a location that is now the Downtown Elementary School to the South
Main Arts District and now the Pinch.
Weve been Downtown for the entire history of the company,
he said. Were here now and this has been the best location. Its easy to get
in and out of, its on the trolley line, its
convenient for these restaurants for lunches. We think it has great benefits.
The historic neighborhood, known for its scattered
restaurants and bars, as well as its sea of parking lots, is in a transition
period. The Pyramid is a major part of that.
When the arena opened in 1991, it was seen as having
potential to invigorate the surrounding area. But that never happened.
When The Pyramid was built, people bought this property
really cheap and thought they would make a fortune, said Julie Ray, owner of
one of the areas restaurants Caf Francisco and president of the Pinch
District Association. Of course, if you dont develop, it is not going to do
anything. So weve got a lot of properties just sitting here that really need
somebody who wants to come in and develop them, not just make a profit.
Infill potential. Leave
it to an architect to have some ideas. Taylor said the area is ripe for
development because of all the vacant land.
There are available pieces down here that you just dont
have up and down Main Street, Taylor said. I think in some ways its got more
potential for new structures, as long as its keeping with what is going on in
the Pinch in terms of the historic nature.
The Pyramid is virtually surrounded by parking lots. And if
the private owners of those lots decide the need for striped asphalt is no
longer there, why not build on top of them?
No matter what happens to The Pyramid additional
convention center space, aquarium, shopping mall, church, mixed-use facility
the on-site parking could handle the need.
And if not, there arent any parking garages in the northern
end of Downtown. Taylor said a garage constructed on the southern arena lot
wouldnt be a bad idea.
A quiet alternative. Much
depends on what happens to The Pyramid, but its safe to say that no matter
what it is, it probably wont bring as many crowds to the area. And that is a
good thing for the residential future of the area.
I think people like the Pinch because its a little
quieter, Ray said. South Main is a little more active. This is a little more
conducive to residential.
If the North End can develop residentially like the South
Main area has, it will form a more solid Downtown.
I like the idea where you have residential areas that
anchor both ends, Taylor said. A north anchor and a south
anchor and then everything in between. I think it makes a lot of sense.
anyone needs any more incentive to develop the Pinch, the fact that the basics
are already in place should help.
There are buildings to be renovated, as well as empty spaces
ready for new construction. There are also services needed by residents already
in place, such as a gas station and convenience store, the trolley line and a
scattered number of restaurants, including Alcenias,
Precious Cargo Exchange, T.J. Mulligans and High
And as more residents come to the area, it will surely open
up to more eateries similar to what has happened along Main Street.
If you develop something down here thats more residential
in character, then restaurants like Caf Francisco develop, restaurants that
are softer and nicer, Taylor said.
There may be something more important than restaurants
already in the area, at least in Rays eyes, with the Memphis Area Transit
Authoritys North End Terminal.
I know a lot of people dont like the MATA station, but
when Memphis gets caught up to where people use public transportation, that
will be our No. 1 asset, Ray said. I think the Pinch is going to be ahead of
the game once Memphis catches up.