New Traffic Signal First Sign of 'Midtown Market' Project

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Left turns from Union onto McLean will soon be possible thanks to a new traffic signal going up at the busy intersection next week.

The turn signal (and the general re-routing of traffic at the spot) came as a part of a compromise deal struck last year by a developer and the Memphis City Council.

Belz Enterprises plans to transform the now-blighted corner of Union and McLean with a $43.5 million development that promises an apartment building, shops, and, perhaps, an upscale grocery store. Developer Ron Belz said in December his company may not build the grocery store, though, and instead fill the space with smaller retail units.
The "Midtown Market" development as proposed last year. - BELZ ENTERPRISES
  • Belz Enterprises
  • The "Midtown Market" development as proposed last year.

The project received a $10.5 million in tax breaks from the Center City Revenue Finance Committee in October. The project also got a $4 million boost from the federal government with a loan approved by the Memphis Housing and Community Development.

To build it, though, Belz wanted a gate to be built at the northern end of Idlewild, to keep the street protected from the rise in traffic. But the gate idea was scrapped in December in a deal, which included the new signal, organized by then-council member (now Mayor) Jim Strickland.

The new signal will light to life at the intersection on Monday, August 1. It is, perhaps, the first of its kind in Memphis as it includes a green arrow, a flashing yellow arrow, steady yellow arrow, and a red arrow. The flashing yellow arrow is the first such signal installed in Memphis, according to city officials.

Here’s how officials say it will work:
CITY OF MEMPHIS
  • City of Memphis
Green arrow: Protected left turn, drivers can proceed with left turn movement
Yellow arrow: Drivers should prepare to stop, red arrow will be displayed next
Red arrow: Left-turning drivers must stop (this is a short clearance interval)
Flashing yellow arrow: Drivers can make a left turn if no vehicles or pedestrians are coming
Yellow: Drivers should prepare to stop, red arrow will be displayed next
Red: Left turning drivers must stop

“We want to give as much advance notice as possible to drivers given that this type of signal display is new to the city of Memphis,” said interim city engineer Manny Belen. “We think the modified traffic signal will provide extra convenience to drivers wishing to turn left off of Union and will improve traffic flow.”

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