For the middle-class African Americans who began to move in the early 1960s to what is now the Glenview National Historic District, acquiring a home on its wide, tree-lined streets was a sign of upward mobility.

As time passed, Black Memphians were able to live anywhere they could afford.

Many of the houses in Glenview were left behind. Over time, those early owners moved away again or died, leaving behind houses that would become rental property or left vacant and in disrepair.

Drive through Glenview today and the sounds of power tools fill the air.

The South Memphis neighborhood that has declined for years, is seeing a rebirth, with homes getting HGTV-style makeovers attracting young buyers and a few new houses built on long abandoned vacant lots.

“Somebody’s got to start…”

Real estate investor Arthur Jones Agrelli, president of Agrelli Capital LLC, was living in Miami and looking for investment possibilities when Memphis caught his eye.

Agrelli moved here in 2017. He was fixing up houses to sell when an employee at a store where he bought paint offered to sell him his house in Glenview.

“I went there with him. When I saw the area I was in love,” Agrelli said.

Map provided by the president of the Glenview Edgewood Manor Area Neighborhood Association.
Map provided by the president of the Glenview Edgewood Manor Area Neighborhood Association.

Glenview is bordered on the south by South Parkway East, on the north Southern Avenue, Lamar Avenue to the east and on the west by Shady Lane and the railroad tracks.

Agrelli saw great potential for the neighborhood and was surprised that there was no movement to renovate the classic homes.

He bought that first house for $23,000, spent more than $50,000 on renovations and sold the property for $140,000.

Agrelli bought more houses, renovated them and they kept selling.

He’d planned to live in one himself, but when his wife was admitted to medical school in Indianapolis, they moved.

But he’s still not done with Glenview.

“I’ll keep buying,” Agrelli said.

Matt Wallace, a real estate agent with The Wallace Group, points out a few renovations he is planning to do on a house he bought for $50,000 in the Glenview National Historic District. Wallace has been buying up houses in the neighborhood to renovate and flip. (Houston Cofield/Special to Daily Memphian)

In the beginning, Matt Wallace with The Wallace Group at Keller Williams Realty, sold houses in Glenview for Agrelli.

“Somebody’s got to start,” Wallace said.

Now, Wallace’s own company, MAS Properties, is buying, renovating and selling houses there.

He’s near completion on a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house on Netherwood Avenue, that will list between $225,000 and $230,000 in early 2021.

The house was originally a duplex, but has been converted to a single family home with a master suite, open floor plan and new kitchen.

The homes in Glenview are solidly built from brick and stone.

“Everybody loves old houses until it’s time to deal with old houses,” he said. “If you can keep the charm of a 100-year-old house and provide new electrical, new plumbing, new HVAC, new kitchen, they’ll buy it.”

<strong>Vladimir Aguilar is installing a new kitchen in Matt Wallace of The Wallace Group at Keller Williams Realty bought to renovate and resell.</strong> (Houston Cofield/Special Daily Memphian)
Vladimir Aguilar is installing a new kitchen in Matt Wallace of The Wallace Group at Keller Williams Realty bought to renovate and resell. (Houston Cofield/Special Daily Memphian)

Not everyone saw the value in what they were doing.

“Last year, I can’t tell you the number of times people would call about the for-sale sign and ask how much for the house. We’d tell them $165,000. They’d hang up on us,” he said.

Days later, they were under contract with a buyer. He’s sold about 14 houses.

“We’re not that crazy,” Wallace said.

Neither are the other investors reimaging houses in Glenview.

One negative, he said is that banks are lending to buyers in Glenview’s 38114 ZIP code, but with no comparable sales data, they aren’t lending for the 38106 ZIP code.

Most of the homes sell in about 30 days. He tries to keep as much of the original character of the house as possible, like the wood floors, plaster walls and glass doorknobs.

But young buyers want open floorplans and newer finishes.

Right now, the house that lingered the longest on the market is the one where they didn’t take down all of the walls and didn’t paint the wood trim.

“It will find a buyer,” Wallace said.

The Glenview buyers are professionals who need to live close to Downtown or the medical district and can’t afford Midtown, he said.

Welcome to Glenview

Like Leslie Berry, Marlon Ross and their baby girl, Marlie.

Berry, 29, works Downtown for Service Master and Ross, 30, teaches at the Soulsville Charter School in South Memphis. They have season tickets to University of Memphis football games and frequent Memphis Grizzlies games.

“Our lives at this point are kind of centered around this area,” said Ross, who had a summer job several years ago with the City of Memphis at the Glenview Community Center.

<strong>Leslie Berry (holding daughter Marlie), and Marlon Ross were thrilled to find a brand-new house, and the location is convenient to their jobs.</strong> (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)
Leslie Berry (holding daughter Marlie), and Marlon Ross were thrilled to find a brand-new house, and the location is convenient to their jobs. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

They couldn’t believe their luck at finding a brand new, 1,800- square-foot house on Netherwood Avenue adjacent to Glenview Park. They paid $245,000.

Cordova, where there is a lot of housing stock is too far away.

The affordable Midtown homes were too small and larger renovated homes were too expensive.

New houses anywhere are few and far between.

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“It just made sense to try to find something in this area. And we also saw the direction the city’s headed. If we didn’t buy a house in the city now it’s going to be way too expensive in the next two or three years,” he said.

The couple realized that most the houses in Glenview are still rough around the edges.

“That was definitely something we talked about a lot. It was pretty risky. But we just believed, number one, you can’t pass up the proximity. Even if it is not Cooper-Young or something like that, it’s still a great area and it has its own charm,” Berry said.

Not everyone in Glenview understands the changes

Not long after Agrelli landed in Glenview, he met Jean Jordan, president of the Glenview Edgewood Manor Area Association.

Jordan, 60, moved to Glenview when she was in third grade, moved away in her 20s, but came back to help her sister care for their aging mother about 10 years ago, renovating a house on the same street.

<strong>“Our lives at this point are kind of centered around this area,” said Marlon Ross, holding daughter Marlie.</strong> (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)
“Our lives at this point are kind of centered around this area,” said Marlon Ross, holding daughter Marlie. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

“I watched the neighborhood change. It was like a slow-moving disaster,” Jordan said. “The crash came in 2008 and the neighborhood, I didn’t even recognize it.”

She reached out to Agrelli when he started work on that first house.

“He said the houses in Glenview were so beautiful,” Jordan said.

Some people were upset when he painted the brick, not understanding that was to attract younger buyers, she said.

“Inside he redid them beautifully,” Jordan said.

But some of oldest homeowners, folks in the 70s and 80s didn’t like the painted brick and were upset that while the new houses meet historic district standards, they don’t mimic the brick and stone of their houses she said.

More middle-age residents appreciate the financial bump for their properties that they get because of the renovated and new houses.

“I think overall people in the neighborhood are happy about the life sparks that are going on in the neighborhood. I’ve received more positive calls about what’s going on in the neighborhood than I’ve received negative calls,” Jordan said.

This is not gentrification

“I hear from people who are happy about the renovations and the new neighbors, the young people who are coming in,” Jordan said. “We’ve always had white neighbors. But now, with the white families that are moving in, the elderly Black residents are concerned about gentrification.”

Gentrification only happens when people abandon their communities, she said.

And Black families have the resources to buy in Glenview.

“We’re a historic neighborhood,” Jordan said. “These houses that have been over here 100 years, they need to be tended to. You have to make up your mind about what’s important to you. If you want to fight gentrification, you fight the current (lending) policies that keep black folks out. But you don’t restrict. That’s how you fight gentrification. I think neighborhoods need to be diverse. That’s the only way people get to know each other and stop the stereotypes that are out there.”

Renovations and new-builds will eventually raise property values for everyone. But Jordan said, no one has contacted her about that concern.

“And I’m more concerned about the neighborhood dying,” she said.

If taxes increase, so do home values, Agrelli said, giving the owners more equity in a paid-for house and the ability to borrow money to fix it up or sell at a higher price.

The real danger isn’t from gentrification, but from “predatory landlords” who buy houses, make few – if any – improvements and charge too much for rent, Jordan said.

When the tenant can’t pay and gets evicted, the landlord brings someone else who gets evicted in an ongoing cycle, she said.

An example for others

Like Glenview, Orange Mound is also in South Memphis and is renowned for a different reason.

Sometimes ‘home’ is a matter of the heart

It is the first community in the United States developed for African Americans. The Mound’s history dates to the late-1800s It was annexed into the city in 1919.

Last year, Shelby County Assessor of Property Melvin Burgess spearheaded an initiative to raise the plummeting property values in Orange Mound.

“These are some nice homes. My parents built their home on South Parkway over there,” Burgess said. “It does a lot to a neighborhood when new development comes in. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Billboard promotes Orange Mound property staying with community owners

He has argued that the efforts underway to boost Orange Mound’s values through renovations and new construction could work anywhere.

Glenview is proof, he said.

“There are opportunities that are out there in lot of these neighborhoods. The main thing is, people need to invest in these neighborhoods,” Burgess said.

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