as we knew it "when"
appears Overton Square has been saved, with an exciting mix of botiques
and restaurants in a new arts district drawing people to the area in
good numbers. In July 19, 2012, Loeb
Properties closed on a $7-million real estate contract to buy
most of the property in
the former nightlife hotspot of Memphis. The areas future is a
little different, a theater arts district with restaurants and shops
included. See our Saved Landmarks page for more information on the
apparent physical preservation of this historic Memphis area which once
was targeted for demolition.
— the essence of the original Overton Square is only history now —
Our past reflection on Overton Square:
the buildings and name remain, but the essence of Overton Square as it once was is only history now. The hustle and bustle that once marked the night life of Overton Square is gone. The landmark buildings on the south side of Madison Avenue now appear ground zero for the wrecking ball. Buildings owner Tom Lowe of Univest/Fisher Capital says he will delay his request to demolish several buildings on the south side of Madison Avenue until early February, 2010. The delay comes after a city hall meeting to discuss his intent to ask the City Council for permission to pursue the demolition. The meeting was crowded with those wishing to preserve the existing buildings, urban planners and city staff members. Developers want to replace the buildings with new ones designed to house retail shops and restaurants. In the large parking lot behind (south of ) Overton Square, a 53,000 square foot grocery fronted by a parking is planned.
On November 25, 1969 voters in the city of Memphis authorized the selling of liquor by the drink and in 1970 a new entertainment district was born in Memphis. The very popular Overton Square area at Madison Avenue and Cooper Street came roaring into Memphis history with nightclubs, restaurants, gift shops, and other retail establishments. It was, for many, the place to go in Memphis for an evening of revelry. Many of the new establishments made their home in the existing buildings that had held more mundane businesses previously. It is those buildings, renovated numerous times, that now are in jeopardy of being torn down in late 2009.
Forty years later after a gangbuster opening of Overton Square, many of the shops and restaurants are empty. The decline probably can be traced to the mid 1980s, but it was a slow and sometimes agonizing process involving many factors. A competing area began in 1983 when the first club opened on the renovated Beale Street in downtown Memphis. The City had taken over the Beale Street properties and partnered with others to establish it as a major entertainment district. Very slowly the focus for downtown/midtown nightlife shifted there. In 2003, the cornerstone establishment of Overton Square, a restaurant and bar called T.G.I. Friday's, the first Friday's not in New York City, which opened in that location in May, 1970 and which once had booming business, closed.