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New pedestrian tunnel under Central Station to link South Main to Front

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —By summer 2018, a new underground walkway will connect pedestrians with new amenities on the South End of Downtown.

Workers on Tuesday were sawing through Central Station's train platform along Main Street to open up a large pedestrian tunnel beneath that will connect Main to the farmers market on Front Street.

And it's part of a much larger project, developers say.

Alex Turley, vice president of real estate for developer Henry Turley Company, said the new walkway will allow people who ride the bus or trolley, pedestrians visiting Downtown and bikers to easily get to Central Station's hotel, cinema or farmers market.

It's all part of the Central Station redevelopment, which consists of a 124-room boutique hotel, a seven-screen Malco cinema, 182 residential units, Memphis Farmers Market, Memphis' train and trolley, retail and restaurants, Turley said.

The redevelopment of Central Station has been in the works for five years, said Archie Willis, president of developer ComCap Partners.

The project is being funded by $3 million grant that's specifically for the expansion of transportation.

"The idea is that this becomes a transit hub to a larger neighborhood, not just South Main and the South End but also South City," Turley said. "We want this to be a demonstration of how transit can work in Memphis."

This whole project has a special connection for Willis, who helped with the funding for the previous renovation of Central Station in 1999. The 113-year-old working Amtrak station was fitted for apartments in that project.

"We really are reprogramming 17 acres of land that was vastly underutilized into a much more vibrant 24/7 operation in the south end of Downtown," Willis said.

Willis said that he's aware that the community has desired a new theater in downtown after the old theater in Peabody Place was removed.

James Lancaster, a Cross Fit coach at Hit and Run Cross Fit across from Central Station, says he's just excited for what the project means in Downtown.

"There wasn't much going on for the community in this area so seeing things likes this is awesome," he said.