With 44 projects currently under construction Downtown, the Downtown Memphis Commission expects to build off an exciting 2022.
Another 27 projects are in the planning phase and 21 were recently completed, according to the Downtown Memphis Commission’s 2022 annual report. The DMC also hosted or sponsored 249 free events attended by more than 500,000 people.
“2022 was a year of expansion for Downtown Memphis,” DMC President and CEO Paul Young said. “With climbing residential numbers, a return to the vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene that defines the entertainment district, the league’s hottest NBA team (Memphis Grizzlies), and live music 365 days a year — Downtown Memphis saw tourism rebound and pedestrian counts return to pre-pandemic levels.”
The DMC held its State of Downtown event Thursday at the New Daisy on Beale Street, the first event held there since 2019. The event included food from Beale Street restaurants, beer from Ghost River and live music.
Here are takeaways from the presentation.
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What were the biggest projects to come Downtown in 2022?
Young cited the completion of projects such as Cutbank Bluff — creating access to Tom Lee Park, 99 S. Front, Alcenia’s restaurant and One Beale as celebratory successes in 2022.
The DMC incentivized 38 projects in 2022, which will add 1,000-plus apartment units, 310 hotel rooms, and more than 1,000 parking spaces to the Central Business Improvement District.
The DMC is collaborating with Pathway Lending to create two new loan products to bridge access to capital for developers with financing up to $1 million per project.
One of the loan products, The Emerging Developers Program, will offer financing alternatives to debt and equity. This loan program will finance the pre-development costs of projects and may be used for site acquisition, new construction, property rehabilitation and associated project soft costs.
While Young expressed optimism about Downtown’s future at the event, he also acknowledged the challenges the area still faces from the COVID-19 pandemic including the pausing of bigger projects like The Walk.
“We know some of our large projects have been paused or put on hold due to various reasons, but what gives me hope and inspiration is the fact they haven’t given up,” Young said. “They’re still inspired enough have that sticktoitiveness that they’re gonna try and get those projects executed.”
How many people live in Downtown Memphis?
The DMC reported there are 26,082 residents currently living in Downtown, a 6% increase from 2021.
Fifty-five percent of the population are men, and 45% are women. Forty-eight percent of Downtown residents — or nearly half — are millennials. Nineteen percent are Gen X, 18% are baby boomers and 10% are Gen Z, according to the DMC.
“Obviously, millennials are important to any city’s economy, because they are our workforce, they are the creative talent that many employers are looking for, and so when we talk about companies in this economic development and recruitment,” Young said. “Having a strong base of millennials is a competitive advantage for us.”
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Parking for hospitality workers, equitable pay for musicians
The DMC plans to make parking for Downtown hospitality workers more accessible in 2022.
The DMC is partnering with Premium parking to make $30-per-month parking spaces available for hospitality workers including musicians, restaurant and hotel employees.
Young said this program will run through the person’s employer and be available at select premium lots and more details will be released later this week.
Starting in 2023, the DMC also plans to compensate at least $250 per musician booked for their events as it strives to commit to equitable pay for musicians.
“From Beale Street to the Edge (District), musicians are the lifeblood of our Downtown and we have long taken seriously our responsibility to our music community,” DMC Board Chair Benjamin Orgel said. “As the DMC, we have a unique set of tools to improve conditions for our working artists and we’re committed to using our influence to the highest impact.”
The decision came after Music Export Memphis’ annual compensation study spotlighted the challenges for musicians to make a living playing live gigs in Memphis. Musicians reported the average of a live gig about $100 per person has been true since at the least the 1980s.
Music Export Memphis committed to pay artists a minimum rate of $250 per musician per gig after releasing the report.
Omer Yusuf covers the Ford project in Haywood County, FedEx, tourism and banking for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached via email Omer.Yusuf@commercialappeal.com or followed on Twitter @OmerAYusuf.