Perhaps it was the idea that somehow Memphis got the short end of the stick on Beale Street. But in the past few years our city has decided that it is a property developer. Think The Pyramid and The Fairgrounds.

Memphis city government is about to develop a third high profile project. The Union Avenue police precinct is in development. With this project Midtown Memphis has an opportunity to add retail and housing that we are so often told is difficult to bring together due to space constraints.

In 2008 Florida based WSG Development planned on bringing retail (remember the Midtown Target store rumors) and housing to 26 acres at Poplar and Watkins. Arguably the site of the old Union Avenue police station is higher profile and more desirable than the WSG proposal. Of course, the improved economic outlook is what is making the Union Avenue site look so promising.

We have an opportunity to provide Midtown with a quality development that is bold and forward thinking. Bold is waiting for the right retailers to commit. We know that Memphis and specifically Midtown Memphis would sell its first born to have a Trader Joes. The success of the store in Nashville should bode well for Memphis. While it’s nice to have Fresh Market looking for space in Midtown it would be a shame to settle on something that is both not unique to the Memphis market and price wise out of reach to many Midtowners. Yes, Trader Joes is not just a better fit for Midtown brand wise but pricewise also.

Another bold component of the project could be adding artist/entrepreneurial studio rentals to the project. Yes, South Main is about to get live/work spaces but look at the concept called ActivSpace. It rents out small spaces to not only to artists but also to small business, hobbyists really anyone looking to rent an affordable small space. Either as a creative space or a place to run a small business. Adding a concept like ActivSpace would also help foster small business creation. Because of it’s affordability it would also help foster needed minority business creation.  The best way to understand their concept is to check out their link below.

Lets make sure we add high-density housing to the project. Union Avenue is already home to some mid-rise apartment developments. Lets hope that the city is looking at adding market and affordable rate or student housing to the mix.

Lastly, please not only make this a centerpiece of how the Midtown Overlay can work but also lets have unique urban design.  Urban Outfitters chose Midtown because of its reputation for being young, hip, urbane and open to new ideas. Please honor that in your design and tenant choice. The suburban horror that is the CVS on Union Avenue should not be repeated. For example, Archimania is celebrated with many architecture awards for their creativity and modern designs. Please give them a call.  Surly they can partner with a minority architect to deliver a uniquely Midtown project.