When James Bridger and Stanley Trezevant bought 30 acres off of Perkins in 1972, the wheels were set in motion for what would later become the Mall of Memphis.
It did not happen overnight though. It would not be until seven years later in August 1979 that construction would actually begin. The project was dogged by a number of unforeseeable challenges along the way; finding skeletal remains of prehistoric (13,000 years old) animals on the site, raising the site elevation above the "100 year flood plain" with fill material slowly provided by Nonconnah Creek, tense negotiations with the Tennessee Department of Transportation over concerns the Perkins entrance to the Mall was too close to the Perkins Exit off the Interstate by a matter of inches. This was complicated by a landowner who owned just a sliver of property with frontage on Perkins who tried to block the Mall even having an Entrance on Perkins. The story of how he was convinced to sell was more "Mission Impossible" than traditional business strategy (and one we were asked not to share)! But it worked and progress was always steadily being made.
These problems made the Mall of Memphis much more expensive than originally predicted - too expensive to complete without help. This meant bringing additional partners into the mix, and the associated problems with a bigger group of "bosses". Mall development was non stop exception handling according to Mr. Trezevant.
Still, he and Mr. Bridger persevered to get the Mall built. Unfortunately Mr. Bridger would not live to celebrate the Grand Opening due to failing health. Near the end of his life, Trezevant drove Bridger out to the Mall site for an inspection. "His mall" as Bridger called it - was coming together on his last visit. There were no stairs or elevators that he could use that day, but he was able to roll inside in a wheel chair and get a feel for the atmosphere of the place he had helped create. He was very, very proud, Trezevant says. When the mall opened, it was a smashing success.
Circling the Mall on Opening Day was the road that provided access to Mall parking. It had been renamed "James C. Bridger Way" at Trezevants suggestion.
I had the pleasure of spending several hours on the phone with Mr. Trezevant on December 10th, 2006, talking about his memories of the building project and the hurdles that threatened to derail the project and how he overcame each of them. Amazing is one word that comes to mind. It's amazing the mall was ever completed at all. This makes the demolition of the mall all the more sad and wasteful.
I was hoping to get Mr. Trezevant to recount on video some of the more interesting stories on the push to get the Mall of Memphis built for inclusion on this site but unfortunately that was never to be.
Trezevant Realty Corporation is a well known name in mid-south commercial real estate and development projects. This company is now run by John Trezevant.
For many years, the corner of Perkins and American Way was home to a plant and garden store, Trip's Nursery. Trip Trezvant ran this business (By 1988, he owned seven nurseries, but he sold them in order to go into business with his family at Trezevant Realty Corp.) and built the strip center which is located there today. But after being on his own for so long, working in that family structure didn't feel right. So he bought back the nurseries in 1990.
However, his experience in real estate gave him a new perspective on the industry. He saw the nursery business as basically a real estate investment. He now owns a company called Trezevant Enterprises, Inc., which handles commercial real estate sales, leasing, development and management. And he soon cashed in on several of the nursery sites. His former nurseries are now sites of hotels and storage facilities among other things.
Mr. Stanley Trezevant also has a daughter, Laura. Laura R. Trezevant left the family company, Trezevant Realty Corp. to join Danny Buring as the two Shopping Center Group of Tennessee, Inc., real estate specialists in this market. The Shopping Center Group office here just opened Aug. 1 last year, but is now representing more than 100 acres of commercial land and 740,000 square feet of shopping center space. Statewide, the company did $130 million in business in 1999 -- $15 million in Memphis.
John, Trip and Laura's father, Stanley Trezvant Jr. was the visionary behind The Mall of Memphis.
Stanley H. Trezevant Jr. of Trezevant Realty, who developed Mall of Memphis on property he bought starting in 1967, said it wouldn't be smart to tear down the mall.
"There's got to be a change of use," he said. "It's still a dynamically wonderful location."
3/24/2007 - I was informed today by John Trezevant that Mr. Stanley H. Trezevant Jr., the "father" of the Mall of Memphis, passed away Monday morning the 19th of March 2007. His family will be providing more information in the future which we will post as available.
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