Revitalization projects to the tune of $13B have reshaped Downtown Memphis over the last 4 years. Tourism has risen 15% between 2012-2017 and the Main Street trolley was re-launched in April.

Private developers are adaptively reusing Memphis’s breweries, bakeries and warehouses. Townhouse Management recently announced its plans to rehab an abandoned 37-story high-rise and is bringing in 500 luxury units. Cushman Commons is rehabbing an abandoned 1.5M square foot Sears distribution facility and turning it into a “Vertical Village.” The old Tennessee Brewery building is becoming 700 new apartments and the old Wonder Bread factory is being converted into residences.

So-called second-tier markets have been slower to revamp themselves post-Recession than first tier markets and, according to Terrence Patterson, former president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, “We don’t aspire to be Charlotte or Nashville or Austin or Atlanta. We aspire to be a better Memphis.”

Developers are placing their bets on a re-established downtown for Memphis. These developers are not interested in defining growth by producing sprawl. They are interested in “…opening up apartments and condominiums downtown because we think it’s important to repopulate the downtown with average people,” said Henry Turley whose firm developed Harbor Town by rehabbing old, already existing buildings.

Developers are using the city’s history as a river port and shipping hub, its outsized supply of warehouses and logistics facilities for their focused adaptive reuse and infill projects.

According to Justin Entzminger, executive director of Innovate Memphis, “There was a generation of Memphians that were told that success meant careers somewhere else, usually in a bigger city or the latest “it” city. Now, for people who want to have a creative career, Memphis is a viable option…the barriers of entry are pretty small.”

Housing prices in Memphis are both more than affordable and on the rise. According to Trulia, housing prices increased +7% compared with last year. Rental opportunities have jumped from 1,780 to 2,400 in one year.

However people define “it” cities, Memphis is on its way to becoming one with affordability to boot.

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