Much has happened since our last cover story on Soulsville in October 2012, and much remains to be done.
The new residence hall at LeMoyne-Owen College opened this past October and construction is now underway on the Soulsville Foundation’s new multipurpose building.
The foundation that operates the Stax museum, the music academy and the charter school has $35 million in buildings and land on the site including the new structure to come.
Soulsville is clearly at a tipping point with a hard earned signing of a supermarket tenant to the Soulsville Towne Centre hopefully on the other side some time soon. There’s always been the idea that those touring the museum should be able to grab a bite to eat or at least be tempted as soon as they walk out the front doors onto McLemore.
The western gateway to the area has been boosted with a MemFIX event earlier this year that showcased the corner of Mississippi Boulevard and Walker Avenue. That will be followed in the spring with a MemSHOP event.
The eastern gateway anchored by the new South Memphis Alliance center on Bellevue Boulevard near Walker is also coming along.
What is significant about Soulsville and what probably makes this much more difficult is that it’s not about building a mecca for tourists to come and visit Memphis and spend money on something that we built for them but not necessarily us.
The tourists are welcome and the music they come to celebrate and learn more about belongs to them as much as it does to us and the rest of the world.
But Soulsville is really about what it was about when Chips Moman was scouting locations for a studio for Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart and found the old Capitol movie theater that became Stax.
It is about us reclaiming our city for ourselves.
There is still a lot of life left in Soulsville – new memories to be made, new possibilities in an old neighborhood that we believe many of us are beginning to lose our fear of.
The future will be the result of much hard work to come and some problems that can’t be foreseen but which will test our resolve to begin reclaiming parts of Memphis that have been declared off limits for too long.
Soulsville is not the only front in a city that perhaps seems so small to many of us because our comfort level is lacking. It is time to challenge that comfort level in such a way that we can see our city as it is in the here and now.
We’re not asking anyone to see something that isn’t there and ignore other things that are there. But we are asking that Memphians no longer accept the neglect and indifference to those issues that will continue to make what we regard as our city smaller if we don’t intervene.