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VOL. 132 | NO. 134 | Friday, July 7, 2017

Bruster’s Highlights Highland Strip Growth

By Patrick Lantrip

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With Bruster’s Real Ice Cream set to become Highland Strip’s newest tenant, only three spaces are available in the Loeb Properties development, including this former restaurant. (Daily News/Parick Lantrip)

When a small record shop called Pop-I’s opened in late 1960s, it helped spark the transformation of a mundane neighborhood shopping center near the University of Memphis into a popular entertainment destination for students.

And while it has seen its share of ups and downs over the past half-century, the Highland Strip and the surrounding area is firing on all cylinders now – thanks in part to the revitalization efforts of current owners Loeb Properties, which just linked a lease with the strip’s newest tenant, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream.

“Basically I pushed them to this location because they have the size and space, and I think what Loeb is doing there is tremendous,” said Harold Blockman with Keller Williams Realty, who represented Bruster’s in the deal. “It’s really come around and there are a lot of good things going on here.”

Bruster’s, which is known for its small-batch artisan ice cream made in-house daily, will move into one of the last remaining parcels, a 1,300-square-foot space at 571 S. Highland St.

Founded in 1989 by Bruce Reed, the chain now has roughly 200 independently operated locations in the United States, South Korea and Guyana.

Blockman said that choosing a location with ample foot traffic and parking was important for the company’s first franchise in Memphis.

“This is just good spot and I believe we’ll have good frontage on the Highland Strip,” he said. “I really believe there is a resurgence going on there because of what Loeb has done.”

In 2015, Loeb began buying property in the area and started its extensive revitalization efforts later that year.

Currently, three spaces remain available on the Highland Strip. Among them is a former restaurant space that Aaron Petree, vice president brokerage for Loeb Properties, said is being considered by a number of potential tenants.

“There are a lot of exciting new businesses opening up now on the Highland Strip to complement the area’s sustaining businesses,” Petree said. “Bruster’s Real Ice Cream is a great fit for the families and students of the University District, and is the perfect complement for our other Highland Strip restaurants and retailers.”

Last September, the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County approved the University Neighborhood Development Corp.’s request to establish a tax increment financing district, or TIF, for an area spanning 601 parcels within three square blocks of the Highland Strip. The TIF funds were to go toward streetscape improvements, including the addition of new street lights, signage, sidewalks, gutters, planters, utility work and traffic-slowing measures.

“Generally speaking, they want something on Highland Avenue, at least in the Strip area, where traffic really slows down because you want people to feel free that they can walk across the street,” EDGE president Reid Dulberger said at the time. “We believe all of these public improvements will spur private investment.”

That seems to be happening, as Petree now says current energy and momentum in the area is transforming it into a cohesive entertainment district.

“The burgeoning nearby residential neighborhoods, filled with families and young professionals, plus the growth of on- and near-campus housing at the University of Memphis, along with other new commercial developments like Highland Row – plus the financial energy of the University District TIF – make the strip extremely attractive to new businesses,” he added.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289