Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Jewels of Memphis: Sears Crosstown

Sears Crosstown hovers over Evergreen neighborhood on dreary January day
This is the second part of a conversation I had with June West, Executive Director of Memphis Heritage about the 4 great and threatened buildings of Memphis: the Sterick Building, the Sears Crosstown Building, the Tennessee Brewery and the Chisca Hotel. I've split the conversation into 4 parts for each building in the order above, the reverse order of the apparent threat.

Since the recording of this discussion the Commercial Appeal has reported that Andy Cates has put a contract on the property. At this point, June doesn't know what his plans are for the site.

Gates of Memphis: What's going on with the Sears Crosstown building?

June West: The latest information I have is that it's actively being marketed for sale. The realty group that has it is trying to get as much PR as possible. Obviously the problems with that building are multi-faceted one being it's huge square-footage. Not one use -- I don't think anyone can take that property and make it one use and make it effective. So I think what you're going to see is a collaborative of groups coming together to do multi-use, residential, business offices, retail, and so on. I know of one participant in that group who has discussed it with people, developers, who would even have a museum of some sort in there.

This is like pulling a bunch of puzzle pieces together. The biggest issue -- how do you deal with a building that size. We had an article in the Keystone about other Sears properties that have been successfully done across the country.

One of the benefits that the other buildings have had is they've been in downtown proper. Our Sears tower is in a more difficult area of town.

I think its renovation would be a tremendous benefit to the surrounding neighborhood. I think the tower redevelopment would be a real smart thing. North Parkway goes straight past the Sears Building down to St. Jude and downtown . There's all sorts of potential impacts with the medical center, the Bioworks area. I don't have any inside scoop on the building but I think it's going to have to take a group of players that can put the puzzle pieces together to make it all work.

GoM: One thing I was wondering about, obviously I'm not a developer but a lot of greenfield development, people buy a giant tract of land and they develop it in phases. What's the reason you couldn't do that with this building as well? Obviously it's a huge risk if you try to do it all at once. But the building was built piecemeal, it was built in pieces.

JW: You're going to have to replace all the HVAC systems and all that, so it could be engineering issues . Again, I'm not that up close and personal with that structure. There's an issue with the parking lot -- the parking garage is cool. Do you keep the parking garage? It's all in the numbers. I think a piecemeal development is possible but something that big, if you were to start it piecemeal, if you had one group that was going to do it in phases, I still think that you would still have too big a risk for one person to jump into it . It will take a good master plan for the area.

I think it's going to take multiple partners to come in and take varied risks. One group could come in and take the risk of the residential, one group come in and take the risk of the business and retail , etc .

GoM: The building itself, when it was sold the last time, wasn't that expensive, like $3 million. How much are they marketing it for now?

JW: I don't know what the asking price is. I will try and find out. But with any redevelopment it is location, location, location.

Update: Amos Maki of the CA reports this morning that Andy Cates purchase of the Sears Crosstown building is complete (hat tip to Mediaverse). Gates thinks that Cates, who rebuilt the demolished Capitol Theater on McLemore, aka Stax Studios, can make it happen. Huzzah!

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Anonymous fieldguidetomemphis said...

i had heard anecdotally that junkyard memphis was eye-ing the sears building for their future site... it would make a really cool public art and interactive experiential museum space.

3:13 PM  

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