Whitehaven Performing Arts Center and Harper Theaters Celebrate Opening

The Whitehaven Performing Arts Center and the Harper Theaters in downtown Southbrook celebrated their grand reopening on Friday.

After years of renovations, Southbrook Properties, LLC is putting the finishing touches on the multi-million dollar redevelopment project.

By 2018, Southbrook Properties had racked up $5.6 million in city and county government bonds and grants to renovate the once-destroyed property at 1212 E. Shelby Drive. The funds were used to update the HVAC system, fix a leaky roof, artwork, light fixtures, security cameras, cosmetic repairs and sidewalk repairs.

The vision for the old mall is to be a community space with the resources so people don’t have to leave the community for the services they need. It was also the intention to rename the facility from Southbrook Mall to Southbrook Town Centre.

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“The revenue and income that could be generated in this community and so many shopping centers and gathering places has been moved to the suburbs,” said Janice Banks, spokeswoman for Southbrook Properties. “During this year’s Elvis celebration there was a screening of his movie and Elvis fans came, brought their chairs and enjoyed the movie he saw.”

The Whitehaven Performing Arts Center is now open to the public for performances.  Harper Theaters set to open in January

Harper Theatres, formerly Southbrook Cinema, is a notable tourist spot as it is believed to be the last cinema Elvis Presley went to before his death in 1977. The theater is now named after Willie Harper, chairman of the redevelopment board . Other board members include former police chief Gerald Perry, Randy Wade, state Rep. Barbara Cooper, Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives founder Steve Moore and Anthony Harris.

Shawandra Ford operates her business, BRWNSK Yoga, of downtown Southbrook for three years.

“I’m extremely excited. I think it’s really, really great what we’re doing for our community, revitalizing in our area. It’s part of, you know, where I grew up, having a really big influence on who I am and who I am as a person, and it’s so great to come back to a space I grew up in and to be able to give back to my community. It’s beautiful,” Ford said.

Community leaders and government officials cut the ribbon, celebrating the opening of the Whitehaven Performing Arts Center and the Harper Theatres.

Many attendees remembered coming to the mall and the cinema and were amazed at the work done, including Councilwoman Patrice Robinson.

“I’ve never been so impressed with a project in my life. It’s just phenomenal,” she said. “I’m old enough to remember this building when it was built, and I used to come here when I was a little girl to go to the movies. Do you know that this building… had no doesn’t look as good as it does Today? Actually, it looks better. It’s 100% better, the lighting is great. I can’t wait for the community to start enjoying the benefits , and perk #1 isn’t another destroyed building in my neighborhood.

Soon, Grant said, residents of Whitehaven will be able to perform some government functions at the center. There will be a police presence from the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office with the opening of the General Session Court Clerk’s Office and the Shelby County Environmental Courts and Courtrooms. The Shelby County Deeds Registry is also at the center.

Ultimately, organizers wanted to emphasize that rebuilding the center and Whitehaven is a necessary collaborative effort between community leaders and their colleagues.

The performing arts center is now open for performances and the movie theater is expected to open to the public in January.

Astrid Kayembe covers South Memphis, Whitehaven and Westwood. She can be reached at [email protected](901) 304-7929 or on Twitter @astridkayembe_.

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