Overton Square Plans Unveiled

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There's still no word on which major grocery store chain will construct a 53,000-foot facility along Cooper Avenue in Overton Square.

Bob Loeb, president of Loeb Properties, told the crowd gathered in the standing-room-only public meeting at Memphis Heritage Tuesday night that the city must first commit to building a two-level parking garage in part of the massive parking lot between Cooper and Florence.

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Once the city commits, Loeb believes the mysterious grocery will follow suit. Loeb said he needs a commitment from the city by June 30th. He estimates the parking structure will cost $5 million, and it also includes a detention basin to curtail problems with the flooding of Lick Creek. The parking structure would accommodate patrons of all businesses in the area.

Most of Tuesday's public meeting focused on the new design of Overton Square. The proposed grocery store would be pulled up to Cooper Avenue, a decision that falls in line with the recently-passed Midtown Overlay plan. It would most likely feature window displays along Cooper with an entrance facing Trimble.

The plan preserves all of the buildings on the south side of Madison, with the exception of the Palm Court building that once housed an ice skating rink. Loeb said they hope to fill those buildings with restaurants and retailers.

"We want this to be a neighborhood place that's family-friendly," Loeb said. "It'd be good if we had some [businesses with] live music, but we're not trying to compete with Beale Street."

The plan also accounts for streetscape improvements and preservation of the curving alley between buildings. The cut-out area at the intersection where cars make right-hand turns from Madison onto Cooper would be reclaimed to make the intersection safer for pedestrians.

The design, prepared by architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss, is in stark contrast from the plan proposed last year by Sooner Investments, which called for tearing down the old buildings on the south side of Madison to make way for a grocery store. Memphis Heritage and Midtowners organized against that plan, and Sooner backed out. Memphis Heritage president June West said she's happy with the new Loeb Properties plan.

"We can't tell you how supportive we are of this project," said June West during the meeting.

A man in the audience mumbled: "I've never heard her say, 'supportive.'"

Loeb said the next step will likely be meeting with the Memphis City Council on the future of the proposed garage.

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