P&H Summit 

Developers and a Midtown icon find a way forward.

P&H Cafe owners say developers of an infill project next to their Midtown bar "upheld their word" on a compromise but that they "still have concerns."

A development group called 1544 Madison Partners announced in February they planned to build 230 new apartments spread over four buildings in a gated apartment complex on the vacant lot to the east of the P&H.

Bar owners Matthew Edwards and Robert Fortner worried the development would have gated off the one-way alley that runs behind the P&H. Many customers use that alley, Edwards and Fortner said, and gating it off would limit access to their business.

As the plan moved through the approval process at Memphis City Hall, Edwards, Fortner, and other neighboring business owners spoke out against the plan to close the alley. Still, the Memphis City Council and the city/county Land Use Control Board approved the development and the coinciding alley closure.

But the developers reconsidered the alley closure after Edwards, Fortner, and the owners of surrounding businesses — a self-serve car wash, an event space, and the Cotton Row Recording Studio — continued to oppose it. So, the developers, 1544 Madison Partners, agreed to meet with them to find compromises. City council member Worth Morgan facilitated the meetings.

click to enlarge Midtown’s P&H Cafe. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Midtown’s P&H Cafe.

Michael Fahy, president of Prime Development Group, a member of the development group, said revisions were made to the original plan.

Access for customers, emergency personnel, and garbage pick-up were shared concerns of the owners. To alleviate these concerns, the developers agreed to add a private alley off of Court to allow access to the existing alley behind the P & H.

Turn-arounds were also added at each end of the one-way alley in the event someone enters the wrong way. There will be gates at each turnaround that will allow access for emergency services, MLGW, and city of Memphis vehicles. Fahy said "we found a solution" that the business owners seemed to be "very happy" with.

"They went from being concerned to the point where we had emails endorsing this revised plan," Fahy said. "We went from worry to thank you."

Initially, Edwards said the development could be "devastating" to their business, but now he's "as satisfied as I can be" with the new plan.

"They upheld their word," Edwards said. "We asked for access and they gave it to us, but we still have concerns."

Edwards said the functionality of the one-way alley is one of those concerns: "It's still going to be a real issue, for sure."

He also anticipates on-street parking availability for the bar's customers to become limited once the apartments open. Construction of the development is slated to break ground by spring 2019, and Edwards expects another slew of issues to arise then, like the presence of construction trucks, fenced-off work areas, and noisy machinery. Edwards said he might consider changing the cafe's hours to work around the construction schedule.

"We really won't know anything until the buildings go up," Edwards said. "It'll be a trial-and-error process that will hopefully work out."

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