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VOL. 130 | NO. 57 | Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Harahan Bridge Could Get Brighter

By Amos Maki

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Memphis civic and business leaders are in the early stages of talking with an anonymous donor about lighting the Harahan Bridge while a Memphis-based movie theater titan is exploring building a new theater Downtown.

In addition, Downtown officials and developers are making progress on bringing another grocery store to the area, which has largely been transformed from the city’s old central business district into a high-growth residential market over the last 15 years.

Local civic and business leaders are in the early stages of talking with an anonymous donor about lighting the Harahan Bridge, just one of several major Downtown Memphis projects in the works.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

According to U.S. Census numbers, Downtown’s population grew by roughly 18 percent from 2000 to 2013 and the development pipeline remains full. Those new residents are clamoring for amenities and services and local officials say individuals and companies are poised to deliver them

Terry Lynch, president of the Southland Cos. and a Downtown investor and developer, predicted during a recent Memphis Area Association of Realtors commercial real estate forum that the Harahan spanning the Mississippi River on the southern end of Downtown would be strung with lights similar to the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, movies would make a return to Downtown and the area would welcome a new grocery store.

Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris said talks about the proposed Harahan lighting come as the “Old Bridge,” which welcomed its first railcar in 1916, receives special attention as part of the ambitious Main to Main Intermodal Connector Project.

“As we work on the Main to Main project, which includes the Big River Crossing along the Harahan Bridge, we are seeing a lot of other projects inspired by the project,” Morris said. “There is the EcoPark plan for the Arkansas side, the levee trail project, South Junction apartment community and others. There is also talk of potentially lighting the Harahan Bridge.”

Lynch and Morris both declined to identify the anonymous donor discussing the Harahan lighting proposal.

Following a nearly $400,000 private fundraising campaign ¬– which included leadership from Pat Kerr Tigrett and veteran Downtown developer Henry Turley – the 200 sodium vapor lights on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, which Memphians dubbed the “New Bridge” after it opened in 1973, first flickered on in September 1986. Tens of thousands of vehicles cross the bridge daily and its “M”-shape and lights have become iconic symbols for the river city.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Meanwhile, Jimmy Tashie, executive vice president of Malco Theatres Inc., said the Memphis-based company was in the early stages of exploring bringing a theater similar to its Studio on the Square and Ridgeway Cinema Grill concepts to Downtown. Those are smaller, four-screen theaters that cater to adults with a mix of traditional Hollywood films, independent releases, special events, food and adult beverages.

“Yes, we are in discussions,” said Tashie, who declined to reveal more details when contacted Monday. A new boutique theater would mark Malco's return Downtown, a former hub of theaters and movie industry suppliers, while filling a hole left when Muvico shuttered its 22-screen multiplex at the Peabody Place development in the summer of 2008.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Lynch also said an independent grocer, not a national chain like Kroger or Whole Foods, could open in the vicinity of the booming South Main Historic Arts District.

Morris, who announced in February that he will leave his post with the DMC later this year to become president of his family’s Jack Morris Auto Glass business, said the Downtown development and support agency was making progress on several critical fronts.

“In Downtown we enjoy our neighborhood markets including City Market at Main (Street) and Union (Avenue) and Miss Cordelia’s Grocery in Harbor Town,” Morris said. “For many years the Downtown Memphis Commission has been working toward attracting a larger scale grocery store, and we are getting closer to accomplishing that goal. We have also been looking to bring movies back Downtown, and we are getting closer to a new movie theater as well.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 124 481 17,865
MORTGAGES 127 530 20,565
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 4 48 2,693
BUILDING PERMITS 195 891 36,836
BANKRUPTCIES 52 262 11,426
BUSINESS LICENSES 24 139 5,848
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 26 116 6,830
MARRIAGE LICENSES 26 133 4,049