Check this scene out on busy Union Ave in Downtown Memphis.
The graffiti doesn’t even look that good.
You won’t see this on picture postcards about Memphis.
If a tour bus comes rolling through here, it’ll be at high speed.
Because this is not a pretty place.
It’s got a few Memphis landmarks; a new hotel, an old bakery being turned into condos.
There are signs of life happening, but nothing like what’s ahead.
The head of the Downtown Memphis Commission makes no bones about it, she likes this plan.
“This is really exciting,” says Jennifer Oswalt. “For us, it just plops a huge puzzle piece for us right in the middle of Downtown.”
It is a game changer, the largest project of its type in Memphis history.
It is called Union Row.
There will be apartments, a 200-room hotel, an elevated park sitting on an open space between Union and Monroe.
Businesses, office space.
They have a lot of fancy drawings of what it might look like, although the final product never looks like the pictures.
What we are talking about here, Oswalt says is, “…filling in a huge gap where we see tourists walk by that stretch of Union all the time. There’s nothing to see and this is a place that is really a connector and a gateway to two major thoroughfares in Downtown.”
Shelby County Commissioners will get a chance to look at the plans for this project Wednesday.
The Memphis City Council will give it the once over next week.
Nobody is saying anything yet about tax money being used to help build this project, but don’t be surprised if developers want some help for sewer lines, road improvements, and that type of thing.
It is a three-phase project and it is a big deal, a very big deal.
“We had a lot of master planning meetings with the stake holders last week,” Oswalt says, “… and what we heard a lot was, one – we need more, faster, and two – things are often kind of piecemeal without connection. This will be a big enough project to plug the gap and get us more and more quickly.”
The project is expected to cost, are you ready for this? $970-million.