The Belz Report, Spring 2000
2002, Volume 1PAGE 2

Peabody Place Leads the Way in Downtown Memphis Growth

During the past two decades, downtown Memphis has undergone an amazing transformation. Beginning with the restoration of The Peabody hotel in the early 1980s, the downtown area began to prosper and grow. The area near the hotel, once was a collection of abandoned buildings, is now a vibrant community where people live, work and play.

Peabody Place MuseumWithin the last five years, downtown Memphis has grown to include the Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail Center, South Main arts district, AutoZone Park, The Peabody Place Museum, the Gibson Guitar Factory, the Rock 'n' Soul Museum and a continuous expansion of the Beale Street Music district.

Leading the way in the Memphis downtown revitalization effort has been Belz Enterprises, under the leadership and guidance of Jack Belz.

When Belz and his father, the late Philip Belz, acquired The Peabody in July 1975, they never imagined their work on the historic hotel would be the turning point for Downtown. Belz and his father spent the next five years obtaining financing to rehabilitate and renovate the property to its original grandeur. They completely restored the original lobby (historian David Cohn once said that the Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody hotel), the public areas and upgraded the 468 guestrooms and suites. In September 1981, The Peabody re-opened to rave reviews.

In an effort to stimulate the downtown economy, Belz Enterprises began working to acquire additional property in order to bring even more shops, restaurants, entertainment and commerce to the community. At the same time, Jack Belz rallied local businesses to invest in his vision for the area.

Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail CenterLittle by little, over the past twenty years, Jack Belz has seen his vision of a revitalized downtown come to fruition. Since the re-opening of The Peabody, public and private interests have invested more than $2 billion in real estate ventures in downtown Memphis. Belz Enterprises led the effort with investments that included The Peabody, Peabody Place Office Tower, Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail Center, single-family home and apartment complex developments and Mud Island's Harbor Town.

Peabody Place has brought much of the hustle and bustle of yesteryear back to downtown, but with a 21st-century twist. This public/private venture of more than two million square feet spans eight blocks and includes:

  • Peabody Place Museum, where Jack Belz and his wife Marilyn share their extensive and rare private collection of ancient Chinese art, European art, Judaica, minerals, fossils and artifacts with the public.

  • Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail Center, which is comprised of more than 300,000 square feet including a 22-screen Muvico cinema with a large-format, 500-seat, six-story theater; a Tower Records store; an innovative indoor miniature golf course; restaurants such as Jillian's Restaurant and Entertainment; Dan McGuinness, an authentic Irish Pub; Isaac Hayes' Music, Food & Passion; Puccini and Pasta, from noted Miami restaurateur Piero Filpi; and clothing shops such as Ann Taylor Loft, Gap, Victoria's Secret and other novelty stores.

Peabody Place also provides Class-A office space in the 165,000-square-foot, 15-story Tower at Peabody Place, the 50,000-square-foot 50 Peabody Place and AutoZone headquarters, a 265,000-square-foot office building. In addition to The Peabody hotel, a new Hampton Inn & Suites, which opened in 2000, provides another144 guestrooms in Peabody Place. There are also luxury apartments, The Market on Main grocery store, additional music clubs, bars, restaurants and parking facilities for 3,000 cars. When completed, Peabody Place, will have created more than 3,500 jobs.

For Jack Belz, the reality of the downtown Memphis he walks through today is even bigger than the dream that served as its catalyst. "A person could literally live his whole life within these eight blocks now – every service is here, every need is met," he says. "Belz Enterprises may have started the revitalization effort with that initial investment in The Peabody hotel, but it is the people of Memphis and their unwavering support that have mended its body and restored its soul."

Photos (top to bottom):

  1. The Peabody Place Museum houses ancient Chinese art, European art, Judaica, minerals, fossils and artifacts.

  2. The Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail Center, which opened last year, offers a wide variety of shopping and entertainment venues.

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