It’s part of $5 billion in new projects just finished or under way, and they include the 2013 reboot of the declining Overton Square entertainment district into a thriving theater district with Playhouse on the Square, nationally known Ballet Memphis, and Hattiloo Theatre, one of the only free-standing, independent black theaters in America, and in 2011, Livable Memphis began to transform their Broad Street neighborhood with its “A New Face for an Old Broad” event, one of the early tactical urbanism projects in the US.
There’s hardly anything more surprising in Memphis than the 535,000 square foot, Las Vegas-style Bass Pro Shops store in the former arena housed in a 32-story pyramid on the city waterfront. It now attracts three million people a year, and with the five million visiting historic Beale Street a year, downtown is now the biggest attraction in Tennessee.
A few blocks east, the surprises are more like miracles at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, because treatments invented there by its 4,000 researchers and staff members have pushed the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent. The hospital is beginning yet another expansion, and this time, it’s costing $2 billion and adding 2,000 employees.
Most Americans are surprised to learn that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is located in downtown Memphis. For that matter, many don’t know that FedEx, which invented modern global commerce, has its World Headquarters here and that it is city and state’s largest employer.