Memphis has remade itself many times during its long and enduring history. Now, it has done it again in the wake of the Great Recession. Memphis was one of the hardest hit cities by the recession in the country. This led to many economists and commentators predicting another beginning to the end for the great city of Memphis. But once again, these naysayers were wrong.
The rebuilding of Memphis happened by revitalizing the old while welcoming in the new at the same time. Among the new was becoming known for outdoor recreation with almost 300 miles of bicycle lanes added when there were almost none five years ago.
In a short time, the turnaround has been remarkable. Downtown was seriously struggling, important neighborhoods were deteriorating, new construction was nonexistent, self-confidence was waning, and people were moving away in droves.
Today, the rebirth of Memphis has been underway for several years. It isn’t complete yet but the momentum is moving in the right direction. Mayor Jim Strickland says the task is for City Hall to get “brilliant at the basics.” As for the basics of Memphis as a whole, it’s still about affordability, authenticity, and creativity. These basics converge in the city’s history, most famously making it the place where musical traditions thrive alongside world famous restaurants. But along with expansion and modernization of infrastructure and businesses, these historic traditions are evolving as well.
Many believe Memphis music ended with the death of Stax Records and Elvis in the 1970s. However, just reflecting on Memphis’ music heritage brought Justin Timberlake to tears a little over a year ago at his induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. He said “I’m truly honored to merely stand on the shoulders of all these legends I grew up listening to and I grew up admiring to say that I stand alongside them now”.
Not to be out done, the creativity, rebellious individuality, and rich diversity that created great music can also be found in the food, culture, and entrepreneurial history of Memphis. When it comes to the food, it sometimes finds barbecue taking form as tacos and pizza.
Growth and expansion are wide spread. Noticeable is the South Main Arts District, where the Lorraine Motel, site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder, now anchors thriving resident and commercial development. It’s just a small part of the $5 billion in completed and ongoing projects in the city.
These include the remake of the once declining Overton Square entertainment district into a vibrant theater district with Playhouse on the Square, nationally known Ballet Memphis, and Hattiloo Theatre (one of the only free-standing, independent black theaters in America), and in 2011, Livable Memphis began renovating the Broad Street neighborhood with its “A New Face for an Old Broad” event, one of the early tactical urbanism projects in the US.
Employment is also up with the addition of the 535,000 square foot, Las Vegas-style Bass Pro Shops store in the former arena now housed in a 32-story pyramid on the city waterfront. Alone, this attraction and Beale Street attract more than 8 million annual visitors.
Additionally, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is expanding and will be adding 2,000 employees to the existing staff of 4,000.
The major projects along with the millions of visitors are spinning off into smaller projects and yet more employment opportunities. All of this comes together in a city with low cost of living and homeownership makes Memphis a city with a highly attractive lifestyle and affordability.
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Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 10 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. With the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.