July 22, 2015

Big Project Revs Up for Byhalia Rd.

A small grocery store, more restaurants and more activities are all options in expanding Collierville’s Town Square and redeveloping the area around it, according to a study by the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.

The study envisions expanding the Square’s retail selling to main Street, Washington Street and areas southeast where industrial properties may be redeveloped.

Chamber president Harry Smith was to present "A Vision for Downtown Collierville," the results of a six-month study, at the chamber’s general membership luncheon on Wednesday of this week at Ridgeway Country Club.

Rusty Bloodworth, vice-president with Boyle Investment, Inc., chaired the committee, which included Bob Dalhoff of Dalhoff Thomas Daws, chamber executive director Ella Jean Whalen, economic development director Michael Robison, town administrator James Lewellen and Mayor Linda Kerley.

It also included Square merchants Watty Brooks of the Brooks Collection and Sherri Springer of Springer’s Antiques. Bloodworth, said the committee "went beyond the historic district" to look at the surrounding area and also road access.

Center Street and Hwy. 72 are becoming more traveled as Nonconah Pkwy develops in that area of town. He said street benches and the Square’s look could be brought down Center Street. "It’s a very powerful entrance," he said. The committee also studied infrastructure, town history and made an inventory of the area.

"There is not quite enough critical mass in terms of retail," he said. "That really cannot probably occur within the Square’s confines." Some of the structures around the Square are obsolete today, Bloodworth said.

"We would really like to see a small grocery operation in the Square area or in that district that would help set the neighborhood and also add breadth to the retail composite of the Square," Bloodworth said.

Lewellen agreed a grocery store or small market "is needed and would do well there." The key is to look at the downtown area as a shopping center and plan out what stores will draw people and what stores will complement them, he said.

But redevelopment isn’t only in terms of business. He said the committee also looked at reworking over time industrial areas just off the Square.

"Some of the industrial properties need to be redeveloped," he said. "That is going to be a product of the economy." He said the Biblical Resource Center and Museum would benefit the area. Other tour opportunities would also help increase foot traffic but would raise another issue.

"The downtown area needs all-day long access to refreshments, soft drinks, snacks,"he said.

Dance studios and other academies may draw people, with parents needing something to do while their children attend classes.

Though not directly related, all the options will help the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s decision on reusing town-owned properties in the area after town employees move to a new public services complex on Keough Road and a new Town Hall in Halle park.

"We really just thought we might be able to assist them," Smith said, "The downtown area and the surrounding area are important to Collierville."

What to do with the existing Town Hall, the Town Hall annex, the Depot and the current public services offices on Washington Street are major hurdles officials want to clear this year.

"I think that anytime you have a decision to make you ought to gather as much information as you can," Lewellen said. "It’s such a sacred subject."

"I really do believe that the board’s main interest is what do we do with these properties that is good for downtown," he said.

Mayor Linda Kerley said she wants to work with neighbors of each location. "What I want to do is, in making a decision, I would like to see something there to help the Historic Square area," she said.

Bloodworth said the committee also wants to protect the Quinn Road neighborhood south of the railroad tracks. "There is a viable intact residential community there," he said. "We really felt like some buffering landscape needs to occur on the east side of Mt. Pleasant Road where the industrial buildings are."

Other options for the district include linking Confederate Park to Suggs Park with a pedestrian walkway, building a pedestrian underpass to cross the railroad tracks and linking South Rowlett Street to Hwy 72.