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2018: A Look at the Year Ahead for Memphis

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Business and Development

No franchise can deliver a blockbuster year after year, and while 2018 won't see the opening of a Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid or a Crosstown Concourse, there is plenty of boom on the horizon.

Central Station: Maybe the biggest development on the Memphis landscape next year will be the re-opening of Central Station on South Main. Back in March 2015, Archie Willis, president of Community Capital, and Henry Turley, CEO of the Henry Turley Co., revealed a $55 million plan to the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) to transform its 103-year-old train station and surrounding area into a boutique hotel, restaurant, bar, and more. 

Central Station
  • Central Station

The project has also brought new apartments to the South Main area on the station's campus. Dirt is now being moved on a five-screen Malco movie theater there, too. Officials hope to have the new Central Station opened by summer 2018.

Tourism Development Zones: City officials went on a Tourist Development Zone (TDZ) blitz late this year. They hope to score a new TDZ for a $160-million re-development of the Mid-South Fairgrounds into a recreation and sports hub. They also hope to change an existing TDZ for downtown to include the Memphis riverfront, in order to build — possibly — an aquarium on Mud Island and a new home for the Brooks Museum of Art on Front Street, among other things. State officials were slated to review these plans late this year and in early 2018. 

Other projects: Look for two new apartment buildings that will transform the corners of Madison and McLean, and Union and McLean.

Work may begin next year on a plan to transform The Edge district, with a $70 million project that includes apartments, offices, and retail spaces. 

Dirt will be moved all around the University of Memphis campus next year, as the school follows its $66 million, five-year master plan that includes a new music hall, a land bridge over Southern Avenue, a parking garage, and more.

Finally, you're likely to see some big changes as you jet in and out of Memphis International Airport next year. Work is slated to begin on MEM's $214 million plan to modernize its concourse.  — Toby Sells

Restaurants and Dining

One of the most anticipated openings of 2018 is the Gray Canary in the Old Dominick Distillery. It was a stroke of genius to recruit Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman for the job. The pair are concentrating on an open-fire concept. From the press release: "It's a technique-driven restaurant, where we get to explore every style of cooking with fire, from flame to ember to smoke to ash." It's set to open in January.

Chef Ryan Trimm will be in the kitchen at 117 Prime, a new steakhouse slated to open in spring at 117 Union, formerly the site of Belle Diner. The goal of 117 Prime is "to bring a traditional old-school-style steakhouse to downtown Memphis," says Johnny Lawrence, director of operations for Across the Board restaurant group, which also includes Sweet Grass, Next Door, and Sunrise.

The restaurant may be old-school, but it won't look old-school. "The steakhouse is going to be a very elegant space, but we're going to steer away from the 'going into the steakhouse and it's so dark in there you have to use a flashlight to read the menu.'"

Their restaurant will be "light, bright, airy, and open."

Crosstown Concourse has already added plenty to the culinary landscape, but it isn't done. Hoping to open in late January is the Crosstown Brewery. The brewery was originally supposed to be inside the concourse, but that would have required removing one of the building's necessary beams, so they opted for building an adjacent space west of the concourse. They hope to have the beer available around that same time. Set to open in March is Elemento Neapolitan Pizza, at the front of the building near the Next Door Eatery.  

Cocktail-centric space Atomic Tiki, with island-style food and drinks, is opening early in the year on Overton Park.

Coming next spring is Hopdoddy, the Texas-based burger chain. The Memphis restaurant will serve the bleeding, plant-based Impossible Burger.

Hattie B’s
  • Hattie B’s

Hattie B's, the Nashville hot chicken place, is set to open in the old Curb Market spot on Cooper in early April. There will be seating for about 120 (with 60 of that outdoors), plus a cool retro design. Says Nick Bishop Sr., co-owner, Hattie B's Hot Chicken, "We are so excited about our Memphis opening in early spring. It's such an honor for all of us at Hattie B's to be a part of the community, and we look forward to seeing our many Memphis friends and meeting new hot chicken lovers real soon!"  

Eastward, the restaurant group behind Rec Room, Railgarten, Loflin Yard, and Bounty on Broad is planning something at 525 South Highland. Expected to open this winter.

Michael Donahue & Susan Ellis

Politics

For the first time in many years, the preview of the coming year in politics will offer a plethora of competitive primaries and statewide races involving name candidates in both parties.

No fewer than seven candidates — several of them with decent financial backing and prospects — will be vying for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018, to succeed term-limited two-term GOP Governor Bill Haslam. Suiting out for this battle royal are Haslam's former Commissioner of Economic Development, Randy Boyd; 4th District U.S. Representative Diane Black; state House of Representatives Speaker Beth Harwell; former state Senator Mae Beavers; former Trump campaign official Kay White; and Nashville-area businessman/rancher Bill Lee.

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Democrats, who now constitute the minority party in Tennessee and who in recent years have fielded no-name candidates for state office, are attempting a rebound with two solid starters in their own gubernatorial primary: former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House minority leader Craig Fitzhugh.

It appeared for a while that Democrats might also manage a competitive primary for the U.S. Senate being vacated by Bob Corker, but Nashville lawyer and Iraq war vet James Mackler, a promising newcomer, finally saw discretion as the better part of valor and withdrew in favor of Phil Bredesen when the former Nashville mayor and two-term governor, the last Democrat to win statewide office, offered himself as a standard-bearer to his fellow party-mates just before Christmas.

As befits their majority-party status, Republicans will see a race featuring two serious candidates — 7th District U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn and former 8th District Congressman Stephen Fincher, with several wannabes filling out the ballot list.

The local ballot has some fascinations, as well — with Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, County Trustee David Lenoir, and Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos competing for the GOP nomination for county mayor, while state Senator Lee Harris hopes to capture the Democratic nomination without a serious foe but, at year's end was having to keep an anxious eye on the possibility of a race by Bartlett Bank president and former state representative Harold Byrd. Meanwhile, former city councilman and current Memphis Chamber of Commerce official Shea Flinn continues to hint at a race for county mayor as an independent.

Beyond these marquee races, the year promises some stout legislative tangles and at least one controversial referendum for city voters — a rerun of the successful 2008 referendum authorizing Instant Runoff Voting — in time for the Memphis city election of 2019. — Jackson Baker

What's New Downtown

The "I Am A Man" Plaza near Clayborn Temple is slated to open in conjunction with the citywide recognition of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in Memphis. To commemorate the occasion, the National Civil Rights Museum will hold a two-day speaker symposium, followed by a time of musical and spoken tributes, and finishing with An Evening of Storytelling where living civil rights activists tell their stories of fighting social and racial inequality.

I Am A Man Plaza
  • I Am A Man Plaza

The weekend of events will be themed on King's final book, Where Do We Go From Here?

The focal point of the commemoration will be the art plaza on the corner of Hernando and Pontotoc. The interactive art installation will acknowledge the historical significance of Memphis, the sanitation workers' strike, and King in the Civil Rights Movement, while providing visitors interactions with art that inspires them to stand up for social justice and positive change.

coverstory_trolleys.jpg

Vintage Trolleys: It's been a long time coming, but the vintage trolleys are set to return to the Main Street tracks in April. And when they do, the Memphis Area Transit Authority's CEO Gary Rosenfeld says, they will be much safer than the previous fleet of trolleys, which were discontinued after fires and other safety issues in 2014. The 100-year-old trolley cars are being re-engineered from top to bottom, which includes new wiring, brakes, and tires.

Alcohol on Main: You might soon be able to get off the trolley, buy a beer, and walk the length of Main sipping it, as the Memphis City Council is considering an amendment to a city ordinance that would allow just that. On January 9th, the council will take the third and final vote on whether to allow open plastic containers of beer, wine, and liquor on Main from E.H. Crump to A.W. Willis. — Maya Smith

Music

As I scan the horizon ahead through the holiday haze, I spy 2018 sending up flares. Let's look first to the live music scene. Ring in the new year with Quintron & Miss Pussycat at the Hi-Tone. Fast on their heels, the new year will offer sounds of the old, weird America, as our beloved Dead Soldiers do a set at Buckman Arts — a great space for listeners — while J.D. Wilkes will get so creaky-stompy at Lafayette's Music Room that televisions may flicker. Meanwhile, Hi-Tone will host its Za Fest IV, rocking out and inward with edgy and/or emo music by Ten High, Faux Killas, Alyssa Moore, and others. January will also see an influx of blues players both famous and unknown, at the International Blues Challenge.

Joe Restivo
  • Joe Restivo

This winter, expect a flurry of world class jazz, as the Germantown Performing Arts Center hosts Russell Hall, Storm Large, and John Scofield, capped off with the inventive and soulful Joe Restivo on February 9th. Shading into classical, Branford Marsalis will soon after be appearing with Memphis' Iris Orchestra.

The new listening room at Crosstown Arts is on every music fan's mind, and I'm assured it will be open in 2018; meanwhile, their old space across Cleveland will host the intriguing Afrospace event, featuring "intergalactic sounds of the African diaspora" including Spekulate the Philosopher and others. Later in January, Crosstown will see a crack jazz quartet pay tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.

The Wailers
  • The Wailers

A more dread beat will kick off 2018 at the New Daisy when Bob Marley's original backers, the Wailers, take the stage, still boasting bassist Aston "Familyman" Barrett and guitarists Julian Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey. And, dominating the skyline in far-distant March, we'll have George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic — start charging your flashlights. A month later, Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T. will bring his politically conscious rap to the venue.

As for local underdogs going global, the great Oblivians will reunite twice next year — at the Debauch-A-Reno (yes, in Nevada) in April and at the Primavera Sound festival (yes, in Barcelona) in June. Meanwhile, all our favorite dives, clubs, and house show hosts are gearing up for untold delights, and check the smartly-curated lineup for the River Series at Harbor Town when the nights get balmy.

— Alex Greene

Film

The first interesting release of 2018 is on January 12th, with Proud Mary, Taraji P. Henson's solo debut as a kick-ass blackspoiltation heroine. I have high hopes for that one. The same day sees Steven Spielberg's The Post, the story of the Pentagon Papers, starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, show in Memphis, and the advance word is extremely good. The next weekend, the highly acclaimed love story Call Me By Your Name hits town.

Black Panther
  • Black Panther

After awards season calms down, we'll get the year's first Marvel movie, the highly anticipated Black Panther. And then everybody's favorite softcore lifestyle porn series ends with Fifty Shades Freed. Whoopee!

March looks pretty packed with Ava DuVernay's adaptation of the beloved science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time, and Wes Anderson's star-studded, stop motion, pup-stravaganza Isle of Dogs. Spielberg's dive into metafiction, Ready Player One, could either work wonders or die in the Tomb of Horrors.

April looks quiet, with only the potentially goofy Super Troopers 2 to provide laughs on 4/20, but the summer blockbuster season blows up early with Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th. Then geeks get to see if Kathleen Kennedy and Ron Howard successfully saved the troubled Solo: A Star Wars Story on May 25th. We crash into June with Deadpool 2, the all female heist picture Ocean's 8, Pixar superhero sequel The Incredibles 2, Jurassic Kingdom, and Best of Enemies co-director Morgan Neville's must-see Mr. Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor?

July 4th gives us Marvel's Ant Man and the Wasp, before we will be asked to pretend to care about Mission Impossible 6, long gestating anime adaptation Atilla: Battle Angel, and the aptly named Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

From there, things get hazy. The Coen Bros were brought in to save Universal's Scarface remake, so keep your fingers crossed in August. There's a Robin Hood reboot from Lionsgate in September. October opens big with Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, Damien Chazelle directing Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in First Man, and Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the Halloween franchise. In November, we have another retelling of the X-Men: Dark Phoenix saga with Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, for which I feel 0 percent anticipation, and J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The big year-end offerings will be Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse, Mortal Engines, Aquaman, and finally, the Freddy Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

Will 2018 clear the high bar set by 2017's film releases? Only one way to find out — go to the movies.

— Chris McCoy

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