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VOL. 127 | NO. 95 | Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Loeb Makes Progress on Square Plan

By Sarah Baker

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The blue banner that hung until recently at the curved building at Cooper Street and Madison Avenue and read “Returning in 2012” will soon ring true for Overton Square and its developer, Loeb Properties Inc.

In the coming months and years, the firm will invest about $20 million to revive the arts and entertainment district’s footprint to about 115,000 square feet. Loeb is expected to close on nine acres near the Cooper-Madison intersection from its Colorado owners by mid-June.

Loeb’s plan, first and foremost, is to redesign seven existing buildings on the north and south sides of Madison.

“This is 2012, we want to lease this stuff up and have it open by the end of the year,” said Bob Loeb, CEO of Loeb Properties. “The north side of the road will be leased and hopefully open, 100-percent occupied by the end of the year.”

Loeb announced its first lease for the Square two weeks ago with the signing of Local Gastropub in the space that housed Yosemite’s Sam’s for nearly 40 years at 2126 Madison. Yosemite Sam’s was the longest-running existing business in the Square before closing its doors last August. Local will have a patio on the north side of its 6,000-square-foot, two-story building.

Moving westward from the Cooper-Madison intersection, Loeb is in discussions with Boscos Squared about an expansion and enclosure of its patio.

“Boscos wants to enclose their patio so it’ll be year-round, and they want to increase their brewing capacity,” Loeb said.

The next two adjoining spaces west – and only spaces left to fill this year – are “the gingerbread house” next to the old Paulette’s restaurant, as well as the old Paulette’s at 2110 Madison. Loeb hopes to fill the house with a coffee shop and breakfast provider because “that’s what it looks like.”

Loeb said his company has “a couple of prospects” it's working for the actual Paulette’s space, and there are plans for an eastside patio. The restaurant’s parking will be enhanced, as well as the addition of a grass courtyard, “because we want people out on the street,” Loeb said.

Ultimately, other improvements will be made to the parking for Le Chardonnay and Bayou Bar and Grill; Malco Studio on the Square cinema; the old United Housing space at the northwest corner of Cooper and Jefferson Avenue.

Loeb does not own the spaces that house Bogie’s Deli or Dabbles Hair Co., but did recently close on a house on the southeast corner of Cooper and La Salle because the land was priced right.

Meanwhile, at Madison and Florence Street, Loeb is in discussions with Memphis Pizza Café about a small expansion, in additions to improvements to the restaurant’s existing space.

Phase two of the Overton Square redevelopment will be new construction. On the north side of Madison, that entails two new retail 6,000-square-foot spaces to be constructed where the old Pappy and Jimmy’s Lobster shack and Silky O’Sullivan’s Pub once stood.

On the south side of the road, the city is going to start construction on a three-level, 450-space parking garage with a water detention facility underneath in July, and is expecting a year to complete.

Hattiloo Theatre is hoping to start the construction of its new space at Cooper and Monroe Avenue in about six months but “has some fundraising they need to do,” Loeb said. The city is going to lease Hattiloo a site; the theater is going to raise its own money to construct a building and to award an endowment for operations.

A concept that Loeb is pursuing for the old ice skating rink in the Square is something similar to Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace where daily vendors would come in and sell fresh fish, meat, flowers and vegetables.

The marketplace concept was suggested by nationally-recognized urban retail consultant Bob Gibbs, who is working with the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team on strategies to promote Neighborhood Economic Vitality.

Also, Loeb is working with local hotel veteran Mohamad Hakimian on developing the former French Quarter Suites Hotel into an arts-central, boutique hotel.

The former business partners who had the 105-room hotel under contract with efforts to convert it into a Choice Hotels Comfort Suites have fallen through. The ownership group of the French Quarter is still Ron Kirkpatrick, Don Pemberton, and others.

“The residential neighborhood is going to demand a higher quality,” Loeb said. “We’re evaluating it to see if we can make economic sense of it.”

With Overton Square’s physical changes comes a new logo from Red Deluxe Brand Development. The design features a royal purple speech bubble with the words “Overton Square – Memphis – ” pointing to the words, “Be there.”

“A logo can communicate an emotion and a vibe and a feel that you can build on,” said Stinson Liles, partner with Red Deluxe. “Overton Square is going to be a pretty exciting place and a pretty active place where lots of stuff is always going on because the way they’re planning to program it.”

PROPERTY SALES 58 149 21,421
MORTGAGES 45 108 16,302
BUILDING PERMITS 222 389 42,309
BANKRUPTCIES 34 74 6,653