‘Entertainment Destination’ Planned for Downtown’s South End

By Madeline Faber

A local developer has plans to transform a city block in Downtown Memphis’ South End into an “entertainment destination” modeled after a popular New Orleans establishment.

Brad Barnett wants to turn the former Loflin Safe & Lock Co. building at 7 W. Carolina Ave. into a bar/restaurant with private residence on top. He also plans to redevelop a carriage house at 721 Florida St. into a 5,000-square-foot rentable event space.

A 10,000-square-foot outdoor yard between the two structures would be used for games such as bocce ball and croquet as well as concerts.

Loflin Safe & Lock Co. building, 7 W. Carolina Ave.

(Center City Development Corp.)

Barnett is positioning the blighted corner to be a neighborhood center for the nearly 3,000 residents in the up-and-coming South End. The property sits directly on the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector Route, which will usher pedestrians traveling over the Harahan Bridge to Downtown Memphis.

The site is also adjacent to the South Junction Apartments, a Henry Turley Co. residential project. Nearby are other Turley developments: Lofts at South Bluffs, the South Bluffs apartments and the upcoming Central Station mixed-use redevelopment.

“I knew that this area was developing and I wanted to get on the front end of it,” said Barnett. “With all the Henry Turley residential development, with the Main-to-Main, I just didn’t see why a restaurant or retail space wouldn’t do great here.”

Barnett, who owns and operates Collierville-based Landscape Services Group LLC, has applied for a $47,000 development loan from the Downtown Memphis Commission Center City Development Corp. to go toward the project, while related entity Loflin LLC is seeking an $18,425 storefront improvement grant, according to separate CCDC staff reports.

Barnett said that he plans to form a new LLC to take over management of the building. He said that he’s in talks with several people who already have restaurants and developments in the area. Whether he’ll lease the restaurant or operate it with the group is yet to be decided.

Barnett has been looking at the South End for several years. In 2010, he bought a 30,000-square-foot warehouse on Carolina Street. Currently, it’s rented out to office tenants, but he said that condo development could be in the cards.

He purchased the Loflin Safe building from last year and the carriage house shortly thereafter.

“After tearing everything down and looking at how it all flowed together, it kind of felt like dominoes,” he said.

Plans for the Loflin Safe building’s ground floor, known as the Key Shop, call for 1,500 square feet of commercial space, to be used for the bar and restaurant, plus a 1,000-square-foot outdoor deck area. Of that, 800 square feet would be covered and other accommodations would be made to keep business flowing in the winter months.

A section of the barn/former carriage house would be turned into a green room, bride and groom dressing rooms or another kind of small assembly.

Barnett said that one of the biggest draws is the Gayoso Bayou, one of the only exposed areas where this body of water flows Downtown. He plans to build a bridge-like deck that spans across the creek. Barnett said he’s already flexed his landscaping skills in building a waterfall at one end of the creek.

The bar is patterned after a gathering place called Bacchanal in the back water of the lower ninth ward in New Orleans and will “sell old and new world wines, offer a well-stocked liquor cabinet and domestic and craft beers,” according to the storefront improvement grant application. The restaurant would serve “cookout food … from catfish and salmon to hickory smoked ribs and shoulders, steaks, chicken, sausages, burgers and hot dogs.”

Overall, Loflin Corner would create at least 10 permanent jobs and $2 million in annual revenue, according to the development loan application. Barnett expects that half of that will come from the restaurant and half of it will come from wedding rentals.

The CCDC board of directors will vote on both loan requests at their Wednesday, Dec. 16, meeting. The staff reports recommend both loans be approved.

“Improving the appearance of the subject property and raising commercial property values in the area will only further stabilize the CCRFC’s investment in the neighborhood,” one report reads.

Under the timeframe proposed in the application, construction would begin Jan. 4 with an anticipated completion date of March 1. However, the staff reports note that Design Review Board approval is required for the project as well as for all exterior work and signage proposed in the storefront improvement grant application.

Kate Simone contributed to this report.