Credit: Memphis Flyer
If you’re looking for a quirky, community-oriented neighborhood not far from downtown Memphis, Cooper-Young could be just the right fit. This corner of the Midtown district has seen a dramatic turnaround since initial revitalization efforts in the 1970s. Even so, it’s not too late to land a deal and try your hand at “urban pioneering.” While you’re at it, grab a cat or two at the House of Mew.
Cooper-Young originated in the 1880s as a teeming streetcar suburb; downtown is a scant five miles away. By the 1930s the district was mostly built-out. In a scenario common to all American cities, the next few decades weren’t kind to the area.
During the post-WWII era industry and more prosperous residents moved out, crime and poverty set in, and by the 1970s Cooper-Young was a zombie-esque landscape of empty, neglected buildings.
The 1976 Bicentennial rolled around and brought with it a renewed interest in America’s historic inner-city neighborhoods. That was the year the Cooper-Young Community Association was formed, and the neighborhood’s been on the upswing ever since.
Most of the area’s commercial establishments are concentrated on the neighborhood’s namesake thoroughfares, Cooper Street and Young Avenue. There you’ll find a diverse array of eateries, coffee shops, an acupuncture and natural apothecary spot, indie bookstores, psychics, a yarn shop, and the only hostel in Memphis. And who could overlook the House of Mew cat shelter? Yep, all that and the largest one-day festival in the Southeast. Artistic, bohemian, weird: Cooper-Young is all these things and more.
The housing stock in Cooper-Young is fairly typical of an intown Memphis community, circa 1900. You’ll find Victorian Folk cottages, Arts and Crafts bungalows, foursquares, and classic shotguns. Prices top out at around $300,000 for new construction or something historic in mint condition, down to under $100,000 for those who aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up. Either way, you’re guaranteed a funky future in this Memphis hotspot.