Memphis Downtown Boom Highlights the Potential of Adaptive Reuse

The city of Memphis, Tennessee is in the middle of an understated boom focused on downtown development and adaptive reuse.

October 5, 2018, 11:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

MATA Trolley

Mark Goebel / Flickr

Memphis is booming, Patrick Sisson writes, and it's doing so largely in the context of the built environment it already has. "More than $13 billion in revitalization projects has reshaped Memphis's downtown over the past four years, and, according to Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors, tourism grew 13 percent between 2012 and 2017."

Adaptive reuse projects abound in this historical river port and shipping hub, with its ample supply of old warehouses and similar facilities. "Since the second-tier market has been slower to ramp up post-Recession, developers have had to be more thoughtful, deliberate, and thrifty, leading to an outsize focus on adaptive reuse," Sisson says.

In addition to an expanding transit system, Memphis' shift back downtown has spurred the development of bike infrastructure. "In a spread-out landscape lacking transit access and sufficient bus service—trolleys cover a small fraction of the city—a rapid investment in cycling infrastructure has made significant inroads. According to the Memphis Flyer, the city went from 1.5 miles of bike lanes in 2010 to 400-plus miles of bike-friendly thoroughfares today."

Green space is another priority. To reclaim the city's riverfront for residents, an expected $75 million development including a network of waterfront parks is currently in the works. 

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