VOL. 133 | NO. 74 | Thursday, April 12, 2018
Prosterman Talks Trends for Wonder Bread Project and Phase Two ‘Jewel’
By Bill Dries
As a fourth-generation Memphian, Gary Prosterman is familiar with the drive to and from work on Union, Monroe or Madison avenues.
He called for an informal show of hands at the Memphis Rotary Club luncheon Tuesday, April 10, of how many also drive the streets daily and a lot of hands went up.
“And how many of you cringe because you see tourists walking from the Peabody or the Westin to Sun Studio or back and forth and you go, “Oh my God. This is what they think of Memphis,” Prosterman asked to more hands going up.
Developer Gary Prosterman said there are some similarities between the Bakery Project in the Edge District and the Gulch redevelopment in Nashville. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Prosterman acted on that 3 1/2 years ago when his Development Services Group and other partners bought the building on Monroe Avenue that had been the Wonder Bread Factory. They then quietly bought the land and buildings around it – assembling about 10 acres in all that is now under development as a mixed-use, urban core adaptive reuse project.
Earlier this week, Orion Federal Credit Union pulled a building permit to start construction on its headquarters in what Prosterman and his team call the Cadillac building – a building that once housed a Cadillac car dealership. The Cycle Shop, a motorcycle dealer turned bicycle dealership, should start construction this summer.
What is driving the urban development is a national trend and a realization of the Memphis Medical District’s demographics.
“What’s happening with the younger cohort is they are delaying having children longer if they have them at all. They are delaying marriage if they get married,” Prosterman told a Rotarian group that is mostly baby boomers who once, with their children, were 50 percent of the nation’s households and now, with grandkids, are 25 percent.
That shift happening with the younger cohort is occurring at the same time baby boomers are becoming empty nesters, he said, and the younger adults who might be their grandkids are interested in living in the urban core close to where they work.
Demolition work continues on the mixed-use, urban Bakery Project in the Edge District. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
The Medical District has 27,000 workers and students coming there every day. But only 2.7 percent of the employees live in the district and only 6 percent of the students live there.
The Bakery Project, also known as the Wonder Bread Project, is going to provide nearby housing in the urban core for those workers and students.
And while phase one is underway, with the first openings probably two years away, Prosterman is already looking at phase two – a little known rail corridor.
“Most people in Memphis don’t know that exists,” Prosterman said. “That to me is going to be sort of hidden jewel of everything that’s happened. We are going to create an urban linear park that will extend from Union Avenue south, and it goes under Monroe all the way to Madison.”
That makes an old glass factory that is part of the Bakery Project the northern terminus of the corridor.
The rail corridor runs south of Union Avenue as well, along the edge of The Commercial Appeal property at 495 Union Ave., which went on the market last year.
Prosterman compares the larger area to what the Gulch redevelopment area of Nashville once looked like, and what its land was used for prior to redevelopment.
He told the Rotary audience that he doesn’t think the end result will be like the Gulch is today, but closer to a smaller version without the high rises that dominate Nashville’s resurgence.