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Nov 02

ORIGINAL SOUTHAVEN: An Economic Development Synopsis

Posted on November 2, 2023 at 10:35 AM by Melitta Duncan

Where did we start?

Where have we been?

Where are we now?

Where are we going?


In the early 1960s, the community of Southaven was born along Highway 51 and Stateline Road with the development of small businesses and the construction of the first residential homes.  This young community just “south” of Whitehaven, Tennessee received her proper name accordingly and began to develop as a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee.  The increasing residential rooftops during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s increased commercial demand and led to the development of the first business district for Southaven along Highway 51 and Stateline Road.  In the late 1970s, Southaven had developed into a viable, self-sustaining community prompting citizens and community leaders to seek and accomplish incorporation on April 15, 1980.


The 1980s saw the young city of Southaven continue to be a great place to live a small-suburban life near a large, metropolitan city that still provided most of the consumer and employment opportunities.  The 1990s would soon change this as the City of Southaven began to develop annexed areas and both residential and commercial growth accelerated southward and eastward.  The following decades would see an explosion of growth throughout the city with tremendous economic demands along Goodman, Airways, Church, and Getwell Roads making the still very-young, modern-day Southaven the third largest city in the state of Mississippi.  Southaven is now a leading city in both the state and region in all economic sectors including industrial, distribution, retail, professional service, and tourism.  Consumer and citizen amenities have kept pace with this demand and subsequent growth as well, evidenced by Southaven’s population increasing from 18,705 in 1990 to approximately 58,000 currently.


Southaven, like all cities, has experienced changing economic and real estate demands throughout the city’s history.  Specifically, the original business districts see troughs first as demand shifts.  Southaven’s original business district is also somewhat unique in that the city never had a town square which typically causes growth in a circular, radius pattern from the city’s center.  “Original Southaven” is now, for the most part, the extreme northwestern end of the city geographically.  Naturally, in time, these patterns move in a full-circle manner as cities become somewhat “built-out”.  Since our original business district is not just “special” in a nostalgic sense, but also critical to the comprehensive success of our city, redevelopment efforts have become an ever-increasing priority.  To set the model in place, the city’s government solidified our original business district as the headquarters of official government operations by investing multiple millions of dollars in the renovation of existing government buildings as well as the purchase and renovation of several vacant buildings repurposed for government operations.  Further investment in public infrastructure with beautification projects, decorative street signs, monument city entrance signs, pedestrian trail projects, and intersection modernization projects with pedestrian options have all added to the statement of commitment by city government.  To incentivize private redevelopment appeal, zoning changes were made along Main Street to allow residential zones to be more versatile with commercial potential.  The vintage sign ordinance, which allows leniency for existing signs to make inexpensive improvements, was also implemented.  The old “51 & Main” district initiative had become stale and unproductive, so the West End Business District was created by the city’s government to offer all economic incentives allowed by state law to promote the redevelopment of our original business district.  These include a 7-year ad valorem tax exemption for all new structures or renovations to existing structures; waiver of business permit and license fees; and waiver of water and sewer tap fees for private business owners and developers.  The geographic boundaries of the West End Business District are Highway 51 from Main Street (Stateline Road) on the north to Dorchester Drive on the south as well as Main Street (Stateline Road) from Highway 51 on the west to Airways Boulevard on the east.


The redevelopment of older business districts is very challenging for all cities and generally is a gradual process.  Although we face these same challenges in Southaven, we’ve seen some progress in the West End District.  One by one, buildings have been reoccupied and renovated; old buildings have been demolished and rebuilt with new structures; and vacant, private business signs have been removed or replaced, all of which has led to improved consumer traffic back to our original business district.  The potential for new business opportunities and solid real estate investments is here again for the right enterprises. 


There’s no better time than now for current business owners, entrepreneurs, and real estate investors to join in the rebirth of “Original Southaven”! 

West End