‘Memphis Rising’: Big construction projects exceed $4B


High above East Memphis in early November, Memphis businessman Andy Cates delivered a presentation he titled “Memphis Rising,” showing that $2.4 billion worth of “major recreational, medical, educational, tourism, and lifestyle oriented projects” have either been recently completed or are in progress and will significantly affect the quality of life in Memphis.

Had he delivered his slide presentation just two months later, that total might have soared by 82 percent to more than $4.3 billion.

A few days after Cates’ Nov. 3 speech at the Crescent Club to the Memphis chapter of Lambda Alpha International, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital revealed its plans to construct $1.7 billion worth of new buildings over the next six years.

And earlier this month, Methodist University Hospital announced plans for another $275 million worth of construction.

Cates played a key role in establishing the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, is founder and chief executive officer of luxury camping network RVC Outdoor Destinations, and proposes to redevelop Mud Island River Park in a public/private partnership with the City of Memphis.

He spoke to the local chapter of Lambda Alpha International, which is an honorary, selective society of professionals involved with the economics of land.

Cates based his presentation on his research that included contacting about 20 Memphis institutions and developers who are building or renovating in big ways.

Here is his summary spreadsheet:

Artesian condos, $33.5 million; Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, $200 million; Broad Avenue, $30 million; Central Station, $55 million; Hotel Chisca, $31 million; Crosstown Concourse, $202 million; Graceland Hotel, $132 million; Shelby Farms Greenline, $13.9 million; Harahan Bridge/Main to Main project, $40 million; Ikea, $64 million; International Paper Tower 4, $115 million; Methodist/UT Medical, $480 million; Overton Square, $40 million; Shelby Farms renovation, $70 million; Tanger Outlet Mall, $97 million; Tennessee Brewery, $28 million; University of Memphis/UM District, $383.2 million; University of Tennessee Medical District expansion, $350 million; and Wolf River Greenway, $40 million.

The weight of all the new development in Memphis is enough to help lure Lambda Alpha International to Memphis.

The Phoenix-based organization holds two “Land Economics Weekends” each year. The previous five events have been in San Diego, Washington, Madrid, Spain, Atlanta and Honolulu. The next one will be April 21-23 in Memphis, according to Lambda Alpha’s website.

Attendees will hear about the successes of the Shelby Farms Conservancy and Harahan Bridge project at event headquarters in The Peabody. But they’ll also take tours of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Crosstown Concourse, Stax Museum, and the Tennessee Brewery.

They will eat lunch one day at LaFayette’s Music Room in the renovated Overton Square, and the next day at Terrace at the River Inn on Mud Island where Harbor Town showcases the New Urbanism style of development.

“Memphis is unique with a powerful sense of place, and many of its greatest challenges have also served to build its character,” states a concluding image in Cates’ slide presentation.

“Although we have great resources (soul, location, water, flavor, hospitality, entrepreneurial spirit), we are competing with cities that have huge economic competitive advantages (state capitals, much higher median incomes, wealthier and/or more established universities, superior air service).

“We must attract and retain folks who want to participate and serve, not just be served,” the presentation states.

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