By Lily Smith
Midtown Memphis has been on the rise for nearly a decade now, but what does this development mean from a Midtowner’s perspective? Here’s what midtown Turkeys think about the exciting changes occuring in Midtown.
We all know Midtown Memphis as the hot spot for local businesses, restaurants, and overall urban development. Germantown resident Zoe Roussey (11) says, “I love going to Midtown to eat or hang out with my friends, and I’m glad it has become such a popular area in our city.” However, with all that Midtown has to offer it is easy to forget that it has not always been flourishing.
While the expansion of Midtown has affected the city’s development as a whole, it primarily has had the greatest impact on Midtown residents themselves. Midtown is a neighborhood primarily comprised of families, many of whom have lived there for decades or even generations. Midtowners understand, and take pride in, the exceptional qualities of Midtown, and they recognize that few other neighborhoods in Memphis can compare to its strong family-friendly, community feel.
Among the century-old homes and eclectic parks, the two most popular places in Midtown are arguably the Cooper Young District and Overton Square. Located in the geographic heart of Midtown, both areas are full of attractive restaurants and shopping and are also the venue for many famous local events and festivals including Cooper Young Fest, Crawfish Fest, Indie Film Fest, and many more.
Since the 1960s and 70s, Overton Square has been an iconic Memphis site and has held much of the same excitement and ambiance present today. However, the 1980s propelled Overton Square into collapse, “as businesses closed and a series of absentee owners led to further area-wide blight.” The square was essentially barren until 2012 when Loeb Properties, Inc. bought Overton Square, revamped it, and vowed to return the area to its former glory.
Still, Overton Square is only one example of these types of development initiatives taking place in Midtown. New developments all across the area have made Midtown the go-to destination for food and fun for all Memphians, Midtowners or otherwise.
Roussey describes the compelling impression of Midtown and all that it has to offer, saying “Sometimes Midtown feels like a completely different city.”
While Midtowners appreciate this feeling too, they interpret Midtown’s developments from a different perspective. Sara Fraser (11), who moved to Midtown in 2014, says her favorite thing about Midtown is the “open-minded vibe and community feel.” She also appreciates that she can ride her bike or walk to virtually anywhere in the area. Phoebe Lusk-Hussong (10), a native Midtowner, adds that she loves the food in Midtown, especially her all time favorites Overton Square’s Molly’s La Casita and Cooper Young’s The Beauty Shop.
Though development is unavoidable, the continuous change in the neighborhood has incited concerns from residents. As change persists, some Midtowners worry that the area will lose its unparalleled, quirky feel. Lusk-Hussong believes this “feel” is already being lost in some smaller aspects. For example, as the area increases in popularity, many previously “little-known” restaurants are quickly gaining more business and increasing in popularity.
This influx of business and popularity undoubtedly has a very positive impact on the city of Memphis as a whole. However, with too much development Midtown could easily lose the aspects of it that made it attractive in the first place. As growth persists, it is important to keep Midtown’s historic roots in mind and not to let the development distract from its individual and important atmosphere.
Lusk-Hussong says, “There are places I have gone to my entire life with no problem, and now I’m having to wait 45 minutes before I can get a table.”
Fraser echoes Lusk-Hussong’s concerns about the area becoming “too commercial” and adds, “I like the community feel in Midtown, but as more and more people are constantly coming in, I worry that some of this feel will go away.”