VOL. 131 | NO. 110 | Thursday, June 2, 2016
DMC Wants to Connect Successful South End to South City
By Madeline Faber
For the past 15 years, the Downtown Memphis Commission has concentrated its development efforts in the South Main area. The fruits of that labor, which turned an abandoned stretch of Main Street into a blossoming haven for retail and restaurants, is spilling over onto South Front Street.
“Ten years ago the only residential option (on South Front) was the Paperworks building, I think, and everything else was blighted. What you see now is over 500 residential units coming online,” said Terence Patterson, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, on the WKNO/Channel 10 program Behind The Headlines.
Patterson and residential developer Brock Holliman of Hamilton & Holliman spoke on South Front’s ongoing transformation.
The greater South End was historically a heavy industrial area. Over the years, developers have turned warehouses and abandoned lots into urban lofts.
“Now, actually the Sugar Services building is in the minority,” Patterson said of the bulk sugar plant that has been in the neighborhood since 1969. “With more residential coming online, I think the old kind of industry is realizing that the neighborhood is growing and evolving.”
Behind The Headlines, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
Holliman said homebuilders and residents are attracted to the South End’s industrial-era character. The historic buildings can pose a challenge in being repurposed, but they yield a product unlike anything else on the market.
“Coming Downtown we can unleash everything we want to do in terms of exterior and interior,” Holliman said. “But it’s hard to do that in a suburban neighborhood. You don’t know if it’s going to survive.”
Hamilton & Holliman’s single-family homes on South Main are moving quickly, which Holliman said points to an influx of families moving Downtown.
He is about to launch a new project at the corner of Carolina and Florida streets. The ground-up development will include upscale townhouses, small condos and apartments made out of rehabbed shipping containers, which brings the South End’s industrial background full circle. He also plans a mixed-use development on Riverside Drive across from the Artesian condos. The first phase would have 100 or 120 units in a six- to eight-story tower, but that project isn’t as far along as the development on Carolina.
Hamilton & Holliman is just one of a handful of developers working to bring a combined 2,000 units online in the South End. The DMC expects that figure to double over the next two to three years.
Patterson said that while the South End is exploding with residential growth, he doesn’t think it’s too much too soon.
Occupancy rates for rental properties across Downtown are at 95 percent, he said. The South Front strip, which stretches from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Central Station, is seeing more commercial growth to complement the South End’s existing 3,000 residents.
“That’s why I think the mix of residential and commercial is important,” Patterson said. “We don’t want to over-saturate with too much residential, but we are being thoughtful about the types of projects we’re working with and incentivizing.”
Upcoming projects on South Front include the Old Dominick Distillery, which will have a public taproom and restaurant, and a small market and deli planned by the owner of The Blue Monkey bar. When it opens in 2017, the redeveloped Central Station will have a boutique hotel, movie theater, restaurants and retail.
Patterson said a grocery store is one of Downtown’s greatest needs.
“The residential is starting to be complemented with more retail and commercial, but it’s going to take some time, I think,” he said. “The retail strategy has always been that we need the people first. It’s not a ‘build it and they will come’ type of model, so we’re staring to see more retailers interested in the South End area as a result of the residential growth.”
Patterson said fewer developers are seeking incentives to build in the South Main neighborhood, which indicates that the area has finally hit its stride. With its work completed, the DMC is turning its attention to the fringes of Downtown like the Edge District, the Pinch District and South City.
In learning from the DMC’s success in South Main, Patterson said that he wants to emphasize a mixed-use strategy in the new target neighborhoods. He plans to launch a new incentive program that encourages this kind of growth.
“The one thing we don’t want to have happen is a wall go up between South City and the rest of Downtown,” Patterson said. “We’re trying our best to make sure we can connect the South End/South Main area with the G.E. Patterson corridor and South City. So we are working on a new incentive program to make sure we can provide some retail and commercial incentives that will go right along the edge where South City and South Main abut, to make sure we can make it a really seamless neighborhood.”