Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Passion or Speculation: The Chicago Pizza Factory

I think the building on Madison known as the Chicago Pizza Factory (named for its last tenant) has been empty since the early 80's. Even for Memphis' storied desolation, this is amazing. Ryan at My Midtown Memphis, may have uncovered a reason (see the bottom of the post).

I've always liked that building's courtyard. It's directly on Madison, it's got low, defining walls that allow views in and out (for people watching) and it's shaded by a number of deciduous trees. And despite being empty for so long, the building and courtyard seem to be in good shape.

It's a great space. A great hang-out space.

I had thought it was unoccupied since the CPF because Memphis was fickle about outdoor spaces. That has changed, hopefully permanently, but that space remains empty. In a relatively robust area of Memphis.

Maybe it is passion that's kept it empty.

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Anonymous denise parkinson said...

I am so glad you focused on this. This building is the poster child for Midtown's vacancy problem (or maybe it's a tax-write-off prob) --

In my own personal, wishful fancies, the owner would be given a choice: Either re-open, rent, or hand it over to be turned into a small, but useful, public park/picnic space, vending perhaps Turner Dairy ice cream cones since they're just down the street!

How's that for thinking outside the pizza box.

9:35 PM  
Blogger mike said...

The whole of Overton Square has been slowly sliding down for years now. Too many vacant spaces not refilling and empty buildings just sitting there. Whole Foods moves out, to a smaller space! Something else is going on there but what, I don't know.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...

let's organize a demonstration outside the apartment building next door where jerry works! :)

actually someone should talk to beaver over at maggie's pharm since she is the only person who has ever successfully rented a space from him! i see him "entertaining" potential renters all the time.

you know though--i think the building would probably need tearing down. also the concrete on the deck is pretty badly buckled. i think he's actually let it go to the point of being unsavable.

4:17 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Not trying to give him a hard time for sure. I've just liked that space and it does stand out for its long-term vacancy.

The big question: why all the retail vacancies in Memphis? What's wrong here -- or despite the anecdotal evidence, is anything wrong?

5:48 PM  
Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...

oh i think he deserves a hard time. it's some sort of complicated charade, i think.

i've always dreamt of a brother juniper's there.

or a mama's co-op type place.

ice cream is good too.

9:33 AM  
Blogger lovecakes said...

We need "use it or lose it" laws.

The pizza was awesome there, I remember.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous John said...

It's always seemed to me like that the parking lot between Cooper, Monroe, and Florence could be developed, at least along the streets ala Overton Square itself. Maybe some street level retail with apartments and/or condos above. I don't know who owns the land, but it seems like something like that could jump start the vacancies in overton square. Does anyone know if the space that used to house The Vortex could be used for a grocery store?

11:33 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

John, that big asphalt-hole is a curse to all the businesses who've survived. Visually a curse, because no one wants to look out on a parking lot while they eat (I'm sure La Tourelle loves it). Micro-climactically a curse, because it probably raises the temperatures 10 degrees for adjoining businesses. Spatially a curse because it deconstructs the Square into a line (Madison) and a point (Playhouse on the Square). A pedestrian curse because the spatial and visual loss gives 2 less reasons to walk to it. And its (probable) reason for existence is a retail curse -- to lure a big box retailer and it's convenience-store clientele. And all of these are financial curses, because they constrict the market for everyone (including the owners of the property).

They could fill 2/3 of the space with residential infill and the rest with either a parking garage or a landscaped, walled parking area. This would banish all the curses at once.

But I think they're angling for that Big-Ass Box.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous john said...

I was up in Nashville for work a few weeks ago and passed this grocery store on the way into town in Hillsboro Village
I don't know if this qualifies as a big box or not, but the parking was unobtrusive, at least from the street I was driving on. A google earth search confirms that there aren't more than 150 spaces in the whole lot (probably comparable to the number used at any one time by the Fresh Market in Eastgate). I gather that this is a rather upscale chain. Am I being overly optimistic that the demographics (1.5 miles from Chicasaw Gardens and Hein Park, 1 mile from Cooper Young, Evergreen, and Central Gardens, less from Tucker-Jefferson, Morningside Park, and the areas on the west side of East Parkway) could support a small to medium-sized upscale grocery store?

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the link above, try pasting this somehow.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Jude Tennessee said...

An obviously drunk patron was served additional beverages here one night 15 or 20 years ago and died in a wreck on the way home. His parents sued the owners and won. It has been tied up in the lawsuit ever since and the owners continue to evade judgement and pay the taxes. I don;t know how long the statue holds on something like this.

6:57 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...


So the vacancy may not be Memphis retail dysfunctional, but Memphis legal dysfunctional.

the legend (and curse) grows.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had heard that the reason it was empty was that the owners got a divorce, and the judge said that they would have to split profits down the middle. Or, if they sold it, they would have to split the money. Apparently, the husband said that he didn't want to share, and in spite, left it emptly

9:10 AM  
Blogger Colby said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all none of these stories are right. I know Jerry personally. There was not divorce and definitely no lawsuit! The real reason it has sat empty is really because of the state of Overton Square, yes some people have approached him about renting it, but non have presented a decent idea for the space. He has had talks with several prospective tenets recently but nothing with happen until the economy turns around. To be honest Jerry owns the real-estate tax and development firm next door and has been busy with that since the restaurant's closing.

12:03 AM  

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