VOL. 132 | NO. 60 | Friday, March 24, 2017
Binghampton Gateway Builds on Decade of Momentum
By Michael Waddell
While construction recently began on the large-scale Binghampton Gateway Center and more development is on the way, the revitalization process to bring businesses and jobs back to the distressed Binghampton area began more than a decade ago.
High-end boutique 20twelve is among the wave of Broad Avenue storefronts to open in recent years. The Binghampton Gateway Project is seen as one result of Broad’s resurgence over the past decade.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The growth of a wide variety of companies and services along Broad Avenue stimulated arteries to Tillman Street, leading to increased confidence from larger retailers to come on board for the Binghampton Gateway Center.
“Memphis is truly made along Broad Avenue,” said Pat Brown, co-owner of T. Clifton Art Gallery, the first retail tenant to come back to the street in 2009. “You have award-winning cupcakes baked here, award-winning beer brewed here, you have artisans at work each day, you have incredible guitar craftsmanship producing guitars for Justin Timberlake’s lead guitarist, you have jewelry makers and metal workers.”
All of the businesses on Broad are independently and locally owned.
“So it’s a true resurgence of the small business, sole proprietorship-type economy,” Brown said.
The original commercial redevelopment centered on Broad Avenue because of the retail shops, and it got started about 10 years ago when the city began going through its due diligence to finalize the unified development code.
“They came to Broad because it had a little bit of everything: retail, commercial space with residential space above, and industrial – so it was a nice incubator for what the code could be and how it would impact redevelopment,” Brown said.
In Broad Avenue’s case, it spurred redevelopment. Then in 2010 came the next plateau in progress.
“We were the first to do pop-ups, or tactical urbanism, with the help of Livable Memphis and some other folks, to really stage the streets how we had envisioned it could be,” said Brown.
Blighted and closed-up buildings were opened. Muddy’s Bake Shop opened a kitchen facility to supply its retail operation, and a florist and other art-centric businesses came to the street.
In 2013, the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County started its Inner City Economic Development, or ICED, forgivable loan program. It has given out $25,000 loans to 12 different businesses located in the Summer/Broad/Hollywood-Tillman corridor over the past few years, resulting in the creation of more than 100 jobs.
“The momentum that’s been going on in this area goes way back,” said John Lawrence, EDGE manager of strategic economic development planning. “They started to prove that the street could change and the storefronts could be used productively. For the last four or five years, people have slowly been populating those storefronts that were vacant for so, so long.”
Loan recipients included Handcrafted Furniture by Elmore Holmes, Memphis Guitar Spa, Goode Development, Metalworks, Propcellar Vintage Rentals, Euro Imports of Memphis, The Bikesmith, Pyramid Stone, City & State, Rec Room, Falling Into Place and CityWood.
EDGE’s $300,000 investment in the 12 businesses leveraged more than $3 million invested by the businesses and building owners.
CityWood creates custom furniture from reclaimed wood, with wood-cutting operations in South Memphis. Owner Matthew Wrage purchased a building in Binghampton in 2015 for $150,000, and he used the $25,000 ICED loan to renovate the facade, make improvements to the concrete, make large-scale electrical upgrades and build a showroom to display the pieces his company creates.
“The ICED loan was what made a lot of that possible,” said Wrage, who also used a portion of the loan to retain two jobs and create four new positions. “It’s helping us do more upgrades than we would have been able to do.”
EDGE also gave its first Community Builder PILOT for the Binghampton Gateway project at Tillman and Sam Cooper Boulevard, where construction just got underway. The $7 million project will create 55 jobs and bring a new Save-A-Lot grocery store, Dollar Tree and other retail to a formerly blighted food desert, where a lack of healthy food options impacts the 27 percent of nearby residents without vehicles.
“It really is a significant quality-of-life issue for the residents of our neighborhood,” said Noah Gray, executive director of the Binghampton Development Corp. “Save-A-Lot as well as Dollar Tree provide improved quality of life through job access, food access and blight abatement.”
The 2-square-mile Binghampton neighborhood is home to 8,000 residents and 3,000 households with an average $26,000 household income.
The Binghampton Development Corp. was formed in 2003 by Christ United Methodist Church and has grown its scope since.
“We really started out with a drive to focus on housing development and have expanded over the years to include economic development, student outreach programs and community building programs, construction job training, and a variety of other activities,” said Gray, who is also a Binghampton resident.
Today, the BDC develops affordable housing, partners with schools on youth programming and mentoring, hosts senior health and tax-preparation seminars, and conducts construction job training.
Residents went to the BDC more than 10 years ago about their lack of access to healthy food.
“So now it’s a fun thing to celebrate with the neighborhood that has long anticipated this development,” Gray said. “It all began with their hopes and dreams over a decade ago.”
He expects Linkous Construction to wrap up work on the gateway project in eight to 10 months, with a grand opening anticipated before year’s end.
“I consider the Binghampton Gateway the crown of 10 years of work in this area,” Brown said. “It’s continued to be this great example of grassroots development, and leveraging incentives like EDGE’s forgivable loan program has really allowed us to break through to the level we’re at now.”
Today the south side of Broad Avenue, with all of its storefronts, is at 100 percent occupancy, and the area has helped serve as an incubator for MEMshop and other incentive-driven micro-retailers.
There is land for additional commercial space to be built with Sam Cooper frontage in the Tillman gateway, and Loeb Properties might also redevelop some of the 1940s warehouse space on the north side of Broad.