Central Station Plan Makes it “Central” Again 

Plans for downtown station include movie theater, hotel, and more.

A hotel, movie theater, restaurant, new apartments, shops, and maybe a grocery store are coming to the century-old Central Station in a $55 million project unveiled last week.

Henry Turley Co. and Community Capital have been working for more than a year on a plan for the South Main campus that is now home to an Amtrak station, apartments, the Memphis Railroad and Trolley museum, event space, and the Memphis Farmers Market. The companies plan to bring more activity to the area by building new access to trolleys, trains, housing, entertainment, shopping, buses, and for cyclists and pedestrians.

"Our theme as we've moved through this process has been to make Central Station central," Archie Willis, president of Community Capital, told members of the Memphis Area Transit Authority's (MATA) finance committee Friday.

click to enlarge Artist’s rendering of Central Station improvements - HENRY TURLEY CO.
  • Henry Turley Co.
  • Artist’s rendering of Central Station improvements

The plan would transform the tower of the Central Station building into a boutique hotel. Willis said Friday he's been in talks with the Kemmons Wilson Companies, which has been in talks with "major" hotel companies interested in the project.

Partners are "ready to go," Willis said, and are awaiting approval from MATA to begin final negotiations. Willis said he expected construction on the hotel to begin in the middle of next year and wrap up by Elvis Week 2017. Hudson Hall, the event space inside the station, would become a meeting space or ballroom for the new hotel. The new restaurant would be inside the hotel.

Malco Theaters would build a movie theater on the southeast corner of Front and G.E. Patterson. The Powerhouse would be converted into the theater's ticket counter and refreshment station, according to the plan. The theater would be a five-screen, two-story, art-house movie theater, Willis said. The building would have a modern look with glass and brick, and it would be accented with neon signage. Construction there could begin early next year with a planned opening around the end of 2016.

About 370 new apartment units would be built on the site, mainly in the big empty lot behind the station. The plan shows that a grocery store could be built adjacent to the apartment building.

The Memphis Farmers Market would be moved to the southeast corner of Main and G.E. Patterson in four new open-air pavilions. Willis said there is no firm plan yet for the Railroad and Trolley Museum, but its move to a new location would be "as good or better" than the current location in the first floor of Central Station.

To open and connect the entire campus, the trolley stop next to the Powerhouse would be relocated, maybe to Main Street. Also, a new concourse would be opened in the big wall that fronts Main Street where the wall now meets the Central Station building.

Much of the funding for the project would come from federal government grants. MATA president Ron Garrison said local entities would only need to come up with about $600,000 to draw the remaining money to fund the $55 million project. The full MATA board will vote on the project on April 27th.

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