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VOL. 132 | NO. 162 | Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Downtown Partnership Looks to Breathe New Life into an Old Underpass

By Patrick Lantrip

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There’s no denying that the railroad underpass on G.E. Patterson Avenue has seen better days. However, a proposed partnership between the Downtown Memphis Commission and the South End Improvement Alliance hopes to change that.

The Downtown Memphis Commission and South End Improvement Alliance are seeking a partnership to bring the gloomy railroad underpass on G.E. Patterson Avenue out of the shadows of the $55 million Central Station redevelopment and into the public spotlight. (Patrick Lantrip/Memphis Daily News)

“One of our strategic priorities is to increase population density and the South End is a major hub for this growth,” DMC interm president Jennifer Oswalt said. “We believe creating a more visually appealing portal will create a safer and more appealing pedestrian experience and enhance the public realm.”

Which is why the two groups are hoping to bring the gloomy underpass out of the shadows of the $55 million Central Station redevelopment and into the public spotlight.

Oswalt said the goal is to link the South End to South Main and help identify the area as part of the South Main Arts District.

“The South End of Downtown is seeing a major revitalization,” she said. “The underpass in question will be the primary gateway between the Memphis Farmers Market Plaza, Malco and South Main.”

To help achieve this, the DMC and SEA plan on pressure washing the underpass and patching the cracks along retaining wall, adding pedestrian-oriented lighting above the sidewalk, painting a public art mural on the northern wall, and installing high-quality signage to reinforce neighborhood’s identity.

This all comes with a $74,721 price tag that has the SEA footing $27,274 of the bill and the DMC’s affiliate board, the Center City Development Corp., putting up the remaining $47,447.

“We believe money spent on this kind of creative placemaking has a high impact,” Oswalt added. “By adding vibrancy and creating a more compelling visual experience, the area will attract and retain more people.”

Additionally, Central Station Developer Henry Turley Co. has agreed to contribute developmental services for the project, which will include an analysis of the existing conditions, project scoping and design, project management, outreach, and securing all required approvals.

“We see it as transforming what was a barrier into a portal,” Alex Turley, vice president of real estate for Henry Turley Co. said. “This is a place that is going to tie the neighborhood together.”

Turley said one of his company’s main goals when they first started the Central Station redevelopment efforts were to create a transit-oriented development in Memphis.

“It’s the little details that really make a place special,” Turley said. “The underpass is where the railroad intersects with the development, so how we pay attention to those details are important.”

Previously, the SEA and DMC partnered up for a similar project to install public art murals and enhanced pedestrian lighting at two other South End underpasses that carried a $120,282 price tag.

Turley said that projects like these, while not as expensive as some of the more notable Downtown developments, are important because they help tie the large-scale developments to the surrounding community.

“So as you do the Ghost Rivers, Central Stations, and Old Dominick Distilleries, you’re also making the public right of way pleasant,” he said.

If approved at its Wednsday Aug. 16 meeting, the CCDC would create an ad hoc committee including three CCDC members, one South Main Association member, and one representative from the Central Station redevelopment team to choose a local artist and vet the final design.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751