Memphis Retail has Momentum With New Developments, Retailers, Restaurants

In January, during his annual State of the State address, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland emphatically exclaimed, “Memphis has momentum!”

Memphis, the biggest little town in America, is definitely in a period of unparalleled economic growth.

Memphis has momentum on its side with the $10 billion, nine-year expansion at St. Jude Hospital and an infusion of hospitality that includes a new convention center and no fewer than 17 new hotels, which all started, will start or will be completed in downtown in 2019.

Shawn Massey, CCIM, Partner, TSCG

Additionally, $4 billion in building permits have been awarded in the last few months with another $5 billion planned by developers. Most importantly, the highly anticipated Memphis 3.0 plan — the first comprehensive growth strategy for the city in 30 years — will ensure growth is sustained for many years to come.

What are others saying about Memphis? Many respected publications are putting Memphis back on the map. Food & Wine put Memphis in its top 50 places to go and eat in 2019. Frommer’s Travel named the city the best place to visit in 2019. lists Memphis as the hottest Southern destination in 2019. And Forbes stakes Memphis as the best bet for real estate investments.

Memphis is not unlike other cities experiencing a retail evolution. Whether you call it experiential retail or any another label, retail is being reinvented and reimagined. Today, it’s more about returning to our roots by offering people a place to gather, socialize and have fun.

Small, infill developments and renovations of aging centers can be found throughout Memphis. Urban-like mixed-use developments that provide a live, work, play environment are appealing to the millennials who want lifestyle amenities in a suburban environment.

One of the more notable retail transformations is happening at power centers where big box space is being repurposed for non-traditional uses, such as industrial, education and healthcare. For example, in the submarket of Frayser, Harmony Plaza will soon be home to a 60,000-square foot STEM Academy.

Another adaptive reuse initiative is set to transform the historical South Main Ambassador Hotel in downtown into a multifamily development with retail on the ground floor.

Breweries and cideries such as Wiseacre, Grind City and Memphis Made are crafting beers and attracting crowds. Locally based, social restaurant entrepreneurs including Lucy J. Bakery, Global Café and Inspire Café are bringing welcomed new concepts to some of the historically disenfranchised neighborhoods. Two food halls have also recently opened with several more planned for the near future.

Further, lane reductions, commonly referred to as road diets, and bike lanes are promoting neighborhood mobility with more walkable (and bikeable) space that is inspiring more local shops to open. Shipping container projects such as Shab Chic Marketplace in the Edge district and the planned Ravine project give pop-up shops immediate opportunities to market directly to consumers.

With Mayor Strickland’s focus on Frayser, Whitehaven, Smokey City, Binghampton, South City and Orange Mound as being vital components in creating a dynamic and thriving Memphis — coupled with the recently launched Memphis Community Catalyst Fund — even more new development is sure to materialize in the metro’s suburban markets.

Dormant since 2017, new development is building momentum in the form of mixed-use. A few examples include The Lake District, a 162-acre mixed-use development by Los Angeles-based Gilad Co. to include 300,000 square feet of retail northeast of Memphis; Silo Square in Southaven, Mississippi, a 228-acre mixed-use project that will include approximately 300,000 square feet of retail in this southern Memphis submarket; and Union Row in downtown Memphis, the largest mixed-use development in Memphis history valued at $950 million. Phase I is grocery-anchored with an additional 85,000 square feet of retail space attached.

And more mixed-use is on the way, including The Citizen, One Beale, The Wonder Bread Bakery, Broad Avenue, Parkside at Shelby Farms and 100 Main Street.

Despite the citywide activity, it’s not a shock that the affluent Germantown suburb remains the hottest submarket. Highly coveted Trader Joe’s opened at Germantown Collection, which will also soon be home to The Container Store.

The mixed-use community Thornwood is now complete and features Newk’s Eatery and upscale, local favorites such as Itty Bitty Bella, Bella Bita and Bob Richards Jewelers. Now owned by Epic Retail Partners, Shops of Forrest Hill recently added Joann Fabrics, Home Centric, Hotworx, Wimpy’s Diner, La Hacienda, GNC and Rock N Roll Sushi.

And more concepts will be entering the market soon, including Let It Fly, a sports bar and driving range facility owned by two-time NBA champion and current University of Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller.

In response to the area’s growth and relative affordability, new retail, restaurant and entertainment concepts will continue to add to the momentum throughout Memphis.

— Shawn Massey, CCIM, Partner at TSCG. This article originally appeared in the March issue of Southeast Real Estate Business.

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