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VOL. 118 | NO. 145 | Wednesday, August 11, 2004

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Pinch 2

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 development: potential.

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.

Infrastructure. If 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 Point Pinch.

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.


PROPERTY SALES 101 603 9,602
MORTGAGES 92 538 10,616
BUILDING PERMITS 215 1,282 20,958
BANKRUPTCIES 51 408 6,108