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VOL. 121 | NO. 92 | Monday, May 1, 2006

Majestic Grill Helps Animate Main Street

Owners want new eatery to become neighborhood haunt

By Andrew Ashby

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MAJESTIC POSSIBILITIES: Deni and Patrick Reilly, who recently opened the 10,000-square-foot Majestic Grill at 145 S. Main St., say they hope it becomes a busy neighborhood hangout. -- Photograph By Andrew Ashby

Memphis' Main Street has a lot going for it. The Pinch District on North Main has history. The South Main Arts District is hosting the Vesta Home Show. And the block of Main from Union and Gayoso avenues, often referred to as the New Main area, also is seeing a flurry of development.

The newest addition to the block is the Majestic Grill, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant at 145 S. Main St. that can seat 220 people. The building, which recently housed the Gordon Biersch and Breckenridge Brewery bars, opened late last month. The building was constructed in 1913 as a movie theater called the Majestic Number One.

Simply majestic

Patrick and Deni Reilly, owners of the new eatery, decorated it with the feel of a 1940s bar and grill, and serve American fare in a moderate- to-upscale environment.

"With all of the building going on down the street, we wanted to be the neighborhood hangout," Deni said.

The construction activity on Main is hard to miss, with 400 residential units planned for that block, said Andy Kitsinger, director of planning and development for the Center City Commission. The area used to be a block of retail stores with offices above. When retail on Main began to move away in the 1970s and 1980s, the block sat vacant.

"It was one of the last blocks of Main Street that was untouched by redevelopment," Kitsinger said.

The New Main block was a focus of the CCC for many years. It was difficult for developers to buy large areas of land because many of the parcels were broken into narrow lots. The CCC worked to assemble the land into four large sections, then put out a request for developers' proposals.

New Main Developments
Wang's Madarin House - Open
The Majestic Grill - Open
The Vue - Construction projected to start in a few months
95 South Main condos - Completed
The Cornerstone Apartments - Completed
Main Street Flats apartments - Nearly completed

One of the first projected developments that came out of the CCC's efforts was The Vue, a 28-story tower at Gayoso Avenue and Main Street. The $46 million project started with the Downtown Parking Authority's decision to build a five-story, 400-car parking garage on the site in 2004. The CCC sold the rights above the garage to developers to build a residential tower that same year. The first floor of the project will have 14,000 square feet of retail space.

"That initiative jump-started development in that block," Kitsinger said.

Main course

While construction on The Vue is projected to start in the next few months, many projects already are in various stages of completion in the New Main area.

The 15-unit Cornerstone Apartments at 113 S. Main St. are 100 percent occupied, with the 5,000-square-foot Wang's Mandarin House on the ground floor.

Next door, Main Street Flats is nearing completion, bringing 36 apartments and 5,250 square feet of ground-floor retail space with it.

Construction just has been completed on the 95 South Main condominiums. The $4 million project adds 15 condos, two penthouses and 7,200 square feet of retail space to the block.

Condos also are going up in the 26,000-square-foot building that used to house a Family Dollar store at 92 S. Main St. That as-yet-unnamed condo project will have 18 units.

The New Main area hearkens back to the traditional neighborhood design in which individual buildings are adapted for mixed use, with ground floors containing retail/commercial space with residential above, Kitsinger said.

"We as a country got away from that in the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s," he said. "Then we started really rediscovering that mixed-use makes a city more vibrant and makes it a 24-hour city."

With development going up around the area, the CCC is focusing on recruiting retail establishments.

"We're trying to create a synergy for all the retail, shops and restaurants in a walkable environment," Kitsinger said.

Drawing foot traffic

The commission wants to fill in the vacant storefront gaps and is focusing on local and regional retailers.

"One of our primary goals is to retain the local flavor of Memphis, and we want to make sure that Downtown is a unique Memphis experience and not Everywhere, USA," Kitsinger said.

The Reillys are an example of locals living in a walkable neighborhood. They live in the South Bluffs area Downtown and take the trolley or walk to work everyday. Deni moved to Memphis seven years ago from Philadelphia, and lived Downtown for most of that time.

"A lot of people thought I was crazy for being a single woman and living Downtown, but I thought it was fantastic," Deni said. "Downtown is safe and it's a pedestrian neighborhood. Everybody knows everybody down here and everyone is so friendly."

Deni said she likes the grill's location, with the Orpheum Theatre one block to the north and FedExForum, Beale Street and The Peabody Hotel within walking distance.

"With all of the building that's going up, it's a perfect neighborhood for a bar and grill," she said. "(The Majestic) is going to be that place where everybody comes in after work, enjoys a glass of wine and then can walk home. We've already got regulars and we've only been open since Friday."

The Majestic isn't the only restaurant on the block. Wang's Mandarin House and the upscale sushi lounge Blue Fin also call the New Main area home.

"It really just shows the success and viability of Main Street to draw entertainment and restaurants," Kitsinger said. "As development grows south, it will hopefully be a link to the South Main district and people will start walking from South Main to the New Main block."

PROPERTY SALES 94 322 4,193
MORTGAGES 95 320 4,710
BANKRUPTCIES 48 211 3,096