Union Row expected to be a game changer for Downtown Memphis

Updated: Sep. 26, 2019 at 9:40 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A major game changer. That's what city leaders are calling Union Row, an ambitious redevelopment plan expected to transform the heart of the Bluff City unlike any project before it.

Inside the old Cadillac dealership at 341 Union Avenue Thursday night, plans for a new Downtown Memphis were revealed. Union Row, Phase 1, is a mixed-use project with apartments, a hotel, retail, office space and a grocery store. It covers 10 acres between Union and Gayoso, Danny Thomas and Fourth Street.

"Memphis has finally gotten to a point where it's recognized on a national level," said Kevin Adams with Big River Partners, the Union Row development team. "It's a special place where people want to be. And outside investors see that. This is a big community effort that will start on the first phase, and it will expand potentially over 30 acres."

The price tag for Phase 1 is $500 million, and close to $1 billion with additional phases. A combination of private equity, public loans, tax credits and revenue from a 30-year TIF (tax increment financing) will pay for Union Row.

"This series of properties with a low dollar hotel and abandoned auto dealers has been this way for a long time," said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. "This is going to be a big plus for Memphis. Union Row will generate new tax revenue from these properties and create hundreds of new jobs. It's a win-win!"

It’s the job of Carl Person with Big River Partners to make sure minority firms get a healthy piece of the Union Row pie, as much as 28-percent.

"When other big projects like this came to Memphis," he said, "FedExForum, Bass Pro and the campus expansion at St. Jude, they were close to $1 billion. But this will be even bigger than that."

Demolition is expected to start by the end of the year. Construction should get underway by late spring or early summer of next year.

“Get ready,” said Person, “This is one of the biggest events that Memphis has ever seen. And there’s more to come!”

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