Overton Square first came on the scene in 1969 when liquor by the drink was legalized in Memphis. The development prospered through the 1970s, attracting young, creative Memphians and tourists alike.
“It was Memphis’ version of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Jeremy Reed, property manager with Loeb Properties, which owns and operates Overton Square. “It was a haven for young people to go and escape with friends for a fun, unique, vibrant experience. The way people talk, it definitely got a little wild and crazy back then, but that was all part of the experience.”
However, the party didn’t last forever. When out-of-state investors purchased the property in the early 1980s, they began forcing out locally owned tenants in hopes of attracting large, national chains. By the mid-1980s, the square was in serious decline as vacancies grew; it slowly became a shadow of its former self.
By 2009, a developer planned to demolish the square’s historic corner at Cooper and Madison to build a discount grocery store. But neighborhood groups and the Memphis Heritage, a non-profit that works to preserve historic buildings, opposed and successfully halted the demolition plans.