Developers Amend Highland Row Plan

By Bill Dries

Developers of the Highland Row mixed-use development by the University of Memphis are taking an amended plan for the project to the Land Use Control Board Thursday, Feb. 13.

The new plan calls for less retail and commercial uses and more residential development.

The application, filed with the local Office of Planning and Development Tuesday by Highland Row Land Partners, adds more apartments and residential beyond those on the upper floors of two of the three buildings on the site along with a row of townhouses along Ellsworth between Central Avenue and Midland Street.

The amendment increases the multiple dwelling units in the plan from 240 to 354.

“This change, if approved, will not prohibit the applicant from developing this project with a mix of ground floor and second floor commercial and office and multiple dwellings in the upper floors,” the application reads.

But the two buildings that had been a mix of commercial and retail on the ground floors with residential on upper floors could be apartments only in the amendment. Those two buildings would also move closer to South Highland Street.

The townhouse units on Ellsworth Street that were an early feature of the plan remain and are to act as a buffer between the single-family homes west of Highland Row and a parking garage.

The Office of Planning and Development is proposing a new condition in the event that the parking garage is built, but there is some delay in developing the townhouse units.

If the townhouses don’t follow the parking garage within a year, the developers have to provide a wall and landscaping along the Ellsworth boundary.

The planned development for Highland Row was approved in 2006 by the Memphis City Council.

University of Memphis officials have backed the development as a key part of a shift of the campus footprint and surrounding land uses to create a major Highland entrance for the campus.

But plans to follow that approval with a 10-acre mixed-use development that was majority retail stalled with the onset of the national recession. The land for the development, which includes what had been a parking lot west of the WHBQ-TV studios was cleared in anticipation of future development.

The old parking lot parcel on the southeast corner of Ellsworth and Midland Avenue is still to become a parking lot again for overflow parking from the center’s retail and commercial uses.

The application notes that by reducing the commercial square footage, daily traffic estimates are “cut almost in half.”