Henry Turley, owner of the Henry Turley Company, doesn’t view his office as much of an office. “I’m not trying to convey anything, I just live here,” he says after being asked about the image his office wants to project. And on multiple levels, it’s true. The clutter, awards, newspaper clippings, and artwork are distinctly “Memphis” and representative of his large body of work in the city. His office, located at the top of the Cotton Exchange building, has a stellar view of Downtown. A balcony stretches around the perimeter of the building, which stands taller than most and lets Turley look out over some of the buildings he has renovated. At midday, the Bass Pro Shop several blocks down is lit up with reflecting sunlight.
As the head of a prominent Memphis real estate company, Turley spends most of his time between the office and his projects. The most recent, South Line at Central Station, was finished in early July and has been steadily moving in tenants. The apartment lies in the South End, next to other Turley properties South Junction, South Bluffs, and Lofts at South Bluffs. They are some of the newest additions to his several-decades-long goal of quality redevelopment. When he started out in the 1960s, Turley said he would have gone either into real estate or worked as a farmer. He chose the former and quickly set about looking for ways to improve the city. However, it took a few years before he was able to get his revitalization under way. “I was quite deliberate about getting into development simply because nobody was doing it downtown, the inner city, and I thought it needed to be done, but that wasn’t until 1977,” he says.
In the interim, it was very difficult to find people willing to help out with redevelopment. At that point, downtown projects had been abandoned to pursue developments out east. Turley was one of the few people committed to improving the area.
Redevelopment in downtown Memphis was an entirely new concept, but with some impressive designs, Turley sought outside help and went about creating what are now South Bluffs and Harbor Town, two downtown developments that allow tenants to have a larger sense of community.
For all the hardship, though, Turley wouldn’t have it any other way. Around his office are touches and furnishings that trace his life and work. Along with the surrounding city he’s worked so hard to improve, these make up his “home” in the heart of downtown Memphis.
[Editor’s note: Henry Turley is a shareholder of Contemporary Media Inc., parent company of Inside Memphis Business.]