MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis developer plans to invest more than $50 million in the Uptown area to build residential units and entertainment facilities on the east side of the Wolf River harbor across from Harbor Town, according to documents submitted to the city.
City Council on Tuesday approved the sale of 701 N. Main, formerly the home of the city's Housing and Community Development division offices, to Wolf River Harbor Holdings for $452,000.
The company is comprised of Billy Orgel, developer of the Tennessee Brewery and other downtown projects, along with several family members and commercial real estate brokers.
In a letter to city officials dated April 26, company official Adam Slovis told the city the company had assembled 32 acres in the Uptown neighborhood around 701 N. Main, with an additional 20 under consideration.
Developers plan 400 multifamily and single-family housing units, and are "in negotiations with a craft brewery operation and a golf entertainment facility" that would be located in the development. Historic district status is also planned.
Benjamin Orgel, a partner in the company, said there is no specific timeline for the project yet, but that the development could "fill out the missing piece" downtown as projects move forward nearby at St. Jude, the convention center and the Pinch District.
"This is a work in progress," Orgel said. "Good development takes time and patience and we want to be good developers."
Valerie Peavy owns the Office at Uptown Restaurant. Her place has been here for five years, serving not only Uptown but surrounding communities too.
She believes the recent purchase of this vacant building off North Main and the proposed plans by Wolf River Harbor Holdings will surely be a draw even if it might not come to fruition for several years talk has started.
"It's bringing a spark. Because what a lot of people haven't thought about is this end of downtown," Peavy said.
Sandra Clay living in an Uptown apartment complex likes the idea especially if the development means a grocery store would come too.
"We don't have anything like that around here. There's really no place for us to buy a loaf of bread," Clay said.
As St. Jude continues it's grand expansion plan just blocks away, Peavy is willing to wait for even more development in the neighborhood.
"Well, time passes. We've been here 5 years. it doesn't seem like it so we're real excited," Peavy said.
Mayor Jim Strickland said the project had been in the works for a couple of years.
“There are certainly still details to work out and approvals to come, but we’ve been working very closely with this development group for a couple of years now to make this a reality. I’m excited for its potential," Strickland said.
“We’ve been saying it for some time now, and the evidence keeps proving it: Memphis has momentum. We have some $13 billion in development in the region and opportunities for even more. Our job at City government is to run an efficient government, provide for public safety, and improve core services -- which will only enable more and more growth from the private sector for our core and our neighborhoods.”