Plenty is Happening in the 38104 ZIP Code

Saturday, December 22, 2012, Vol. 5, No. 52

Saying something different is happening in Midtown is like saying the sun will rise in the east each morning.

But the pockets of change particularly in commercial real estate in Midtown point to significant changes we haven’t seen before. And they represent some big opportunities to affect daily life for those who call Midtown home as well as those who pass through an area with three major east-west arteries – Poplar, Union and Madison Avenues.

Midtown is both destination and rush hour corridor, which makes it unique. Then again, unique is frequently a synonym for Midtown and it is that uniqueness that sometimes makes for a longer gap between plans and the grand opening of something new.

Look at just about any map that a retailer looking at Memphis has for possible locations there is a Midtown dot on the map.

Midtown tends to cling to its land uses over the years. But that may be about to change with plans by Kroger to keep a supermarket presence on Union near McLean.

To do that, Kroger will demolish the Belvedere Apartments tower for a bigger footprint that solves the problem other developers cited in this week’s cover story – parking.

The Kroger plans will almost certainly have a ripple effect around what is one of Midtown’s busiest intersections – Union and McLean. Some of it just happens to be under way at the same time including the move of the Memphis Police Department from its Union Avenue precinct, east of the intersection.

Go a bit farther east and to the north and you have Overton Square, where years of struggle are turning into the kind of momentum that comes when one or two pieces are secure.

There are obstacles including the parking for many of the older retail strips on the three major east-west corridors.

And while working around those obstacles might take a bit longer, we believe ultimately the wait and the recognition that Midtown is not a blank canvas are worth it.

When developers are working on a canvas that is already filled in, demolition and assembling parcels and considering the neighboring institutions is going to take longer.

But it is clearly worth it, in this case even if it is not the situation every retailer is looking for.

This is now starting to become apparent as Overton Square blossoms after several years of misses with other ideas and other retailers.

We lamented in this space the death of the idea of a supermarket on the parking lot where a new parking garage and Hattiloo Theater are now being built. And Midtown will get a modern supermarket at a location identified for decades as a supermarket location with the coming demolition of the Kroger.

The effect promises to be a catalyst in other part of our city where something different hasn’t happened in far too long.