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Memphis Midtown revival: Commercial developers pursue more property for new project

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By Thomas Bailey Jr.

Originally published 04:00 p.m., January 14, 2013 (
Updated 12:15 a.m., January 15, 2013

Union Avenue has drawn yet another developer, this one working to acquire and likely raze multiple properties stretching north and west from or near the northwest corner of Union and Barksdale.

The activity only solidifies the revival of Midtown redevelopment, especially along the Union corridor from Cooper to Belvedere.

“True, there are some offers out there,” real estate attorney Mike Hewgley said Monday, referring to offers to buy out property owners in the Union-Barksdale-McLean area. “I can’t tell you how many. I can’t tell you who it is.”

Targeted parcels may angle behind two buildings not involved — Starbucks and T-Mobile — meaning a new development could touch Union, Barksdale and McLean.

But that didn’t come from Hewgley, who represents the out-of-town developer. “I’m not at liberty now to discuss it,” he said.

Even the potential sellers of the parcels “don’t know how many we have under contract and they don’t know who the buyer is.”

Three older houses front Union between Barksdale and the relatively new T-Mobile building next to Starbucks at the corner of Union and McLean. The two-story houses had long ago been converted to commercial uses, including Push Pilates and Psychic Reading. Efforts to reach those property owners for comment were unsuccessful.

Hewgley is the trustee for the contracts and his son, Thomas Hewgley, is doing the legwork with the property owners.

“At this point it’s moving along,” Mike Hewgley said of the effort to acquire property. “Is it a 100 percent slam dunk? Probably not. Is it going to happen? Probably.”

The activity has created some buzz among neighborhood residents, indicated Kitty Graves, who lives a block over, walks the area daily and knows a number of residents there. She said she was aware of two people who possessed agreements to sell their property.

The properties would likely be older houses, built as early as 1905, that have either been converted to businesses or remained residential.

In a spot check of the sites last week, people answering the doors or staffing the businesses said either they were under confidentiality agreements not to comment or deferred to the property owner.

The potential redevelopment is just one of several in the immediate vicinity.

Someone wants to buy the now-vacant office building and hotel at the southwest corner of Union and McLean, have it demolished and rebuild on that corner.

The four-plus acres now housing the Memphis Police Department’s Traffic Bureau at 1925 Union eventually will be vacated and sold by the city to a private developer, city officials have said.

Panera Bread Co. is now renovating an old Pizza Hut nearby at 1925 Union.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries is nearing completion of its new restaurant at 2100 Union, where an old house with peeling yellow paint had housed Mid-South Title Loans.

And just behind Five Guys on Madison may be the root cause for much of the area’s new investment: A $40 million project to redevelop the Overton Square entertainment district.

“It’s a neat little pocket,” Danny Buring of The Shopping Center Group said of the reviving area. “As the world becomes a smaller place for development, doing infill stuff is just what everybody is focused on.”

Hewgley lives in Germantown, but is well aware of the spike in Midtown commercial development.

“That whole area, from Belvedere to Cooper, both sides of Union, I think is getting ready to explode. I think it’s going to be the Poplar/Perkins of Midtown” with spruced-up buildings and more upscale shopping, he said, referring to the heart of commercial East Memphis.

“Those people in Midtown have always wanted better shopping options than they had and I think there’s a demand for it,” Hewgley said.

“Those people putting parcels together … know what they are doing.”

Hewgley has also been involved with the old hotel/office building that’s now for sale at Union and McLean. He said the people interested in buying and redeveloping that property also are from out of town.

“There’s a lot of out-of-town money coming in to take advantage of this revival,” he said.

This article originally appeared here.
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