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Downtown Memphis Leaders Hopeful St. Jude Expansion Can Help Revitalize Pinch District

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - This spring, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will break ground on its largest expansion ever. St. Jude leaders announced Monday this $412 million, 8-story Advanced Research Center will open in 2021 with state of the art labs to help save more lives.

The project is part of one billion dollar building expansion of St. Jude, and it's expected to spur innovation and children's cancer breakthroughs in this city for the next 20 years. 

"This building is like no other research building in the world,” says Dr. James Downing, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital President & CEO.

When St, Jude opens this new advanced research center in three years, scientists will again come to work every day driven by the same mission; saving lives.

"What is the cause of those diseases, what drives those diseases? And that allows to better treat those children and ultimately to cure those children,” says Dr. Downing.

The research center will be built on a plot of land on the St, Jude campus, and will eventually compliment and interact the existing research buildings.

"Scientists want the best environment for them to do their science,” says Dr. Downing.

Now at about the halfway point of the St. Jude 6-year master plan, hospital leaders promised similar construction announcements soon on new housing for patients, new outpatient clinics, and new office buildings for physicians.

"Our goal is to really recruit the best scientists from around the globe onto the Memphis campus,” says Dr. Downing.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released the following statement: "We are excited about the expansion and what it says about our continued momentum in Memphis. St. Jude's life-saving work is a major reason ours is a city that's changing the world."

Memphis leaders are hopeful St. Jude’s largest expansion to date and nearby downtown construction will be the needed catalyst to get development off the ground in the Pinch District.

Much like the trolley tracks, the Pinch District in downtown Memphis’ northern pocket has been off track for years, if not decades.

“The attention is already on the Pinch but what you're going to start to see is some things happening in the Pinch,” says Kevin Kane, with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

After false hopes and false starts in the Pinch, Kane is confident about a revival in the empty blocks of parking lots and abandoned buildings. There’s the upcoming renovation of the Cook Convention Center nearby and this latest St. Jude expansion.

 “You are seeing a major development in that part of downtown Memphis that is just going to be transformational over the next three or four years,” says Kane.

Downtown Memphis leaders believe actual construction work in and near the Pinch will get hesitant out-of-state developers off the sidelines. Last year, city and county leaders agreed to blueprints for a long-term Pinch redevelopment plan.

If all goes as planned, it would add shops, restaurants, apartments, and offices next door to the expanded St. Jude campus.

“Memphis is a city on the move, there's a lot of great things happening here and it's our time to shine,” says Kane.

St. Jude also owns parcels in the Pinch district, and Dr. Downing told Local 24 some are dedicated for further expansions in the 2020s. A new future master plan for the entire St. Jude campus is expected at the end of this year.

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