Saving the Square 

Memphis Heritage discusses possible changes at Madison and Cooper.

Overton Square is in danger of becoming more of a box.

Plans for the square include tearing down existing buildings, such as the former T.G.I. Fridays, on the south side of Madison and placing a strip mall there or constructing a big-box grocery store in the southwest corner of the adjacent parking lot.

In a meeting organized by Memphis Heritage last week, architects, planners, and Midtown residents came together to discuss the current development plans for Overton Square, plans that many at the meeting did not agree with.

"I would hate to see the buildings torn down," said David Hanson. "The idea of a grocery store is great, but I don't want to infringe on anybody else's rights, especially when they talk about the back of that building facing the front of the other existing buildings."

Others wanted to make sure any retail development would meet certain standards.

"If a grocery store must go there, I would like for it to be an upscale grocery store, like Trader Joe's," said Midtown resident Sara Holmes.

Memphis Heritage executive director June West contacted Fisher Capital, one of the Square's owners, but was told to take her concerns to the city and not to the owners or AWG, developers for the site.

West also contacted AWG and asked for a meeting, but AWG did not return her calls.

"If they don't come to the table, we don't have any way of knowing or communicating what we would like to see, and Midtown residents have a right to say what they would like to see in that area," West said. "It's not that we want to obstruct them. We want to be involved in the plan."

Meeting participants also wondered if they could get a moratorium on development to delay any possible demolition of the area's buildings.

"Every city has a heart and in Memphis, it's Overton Square," said Jeanne Arthur, a realtor who handled public relations for the Square in its early days. "I think that heart still wants to beat."

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