Memphis: game-changer for nationwide retail

Last week, I wrote about the changes on tap for Poplar Plaza – the 360,000-square-foot center at Poplar Avenue and Highland Street in the University of Memphis area, the main thoroughfare of the city.

Built in 1948, the center has remained a premier retail center from more than 60 years. In fact, it’s often considered the genesis of the outdoor strip mall in the southern region and, according to architectural historian Kenneth Jackson, was the first of its kind and size in the nation.

Memphis has long-been associated with powerhouses such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, FedEx Corp. and International Paper. But we’re also a big deal in the retail real estate arena.

Here are some other notable firsts the 20th-largest-city in the nation boasts:

  • 1916: Piggly Wiggly – First self-service supermarket
  • 1975: Mid American Mall – Largest Pedestrian Mall in the United States at the time
  • 1979: Belz Factory Outlet in Lakeland: First ground enclosed outlet center in United States. This is about be redeveloped as Lakeland Station.
  • 1981: Saddle Creek – First Lifestyle Center in the U.S.