Paul Morris hesitated when he started organizing the project launch two weeks ago for the renovation and conversion of the old Chisca hotel into an apartment building.
Main Street Apartment Partners LLC purchased the Chisca Hotel in October. The project’s lead partner, Gene Carlisle of Carlisle Corp., is the latest to sign on for the project.
(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)
The Church of God In Christ sold the building last year to Main Street Apartment Partners LLC, the group developing the boarded-up century-old hotel.
But as Morris, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, put together the simple gathering, the ownership group still didn’t have its lead partner – the partner who had the ability to actually carry out the renovation and finance it.
But the eventual partner, it soon would be discovered, was well known not just for Downtown development but specifically development on the south end of Downtown. He had a long history not too far away and he had always had his eye on the old hotel.
The day before the project launch Friday, April 27, Gene Carlisle made it official and committed his Carlisle Corp. to the Chisca project.
“There are a lot of challenges. The hardest piece obviously was the old building. This is a pretty easy piece to do here,” Carlisle said of the 1961 motor court annex that includes a three-level parking garage and was the site of the project launch. “The older building doesn’t quite do that. Keeping the windows and not being able to change the exterior – that leads to more challenges.”
Carlisle was the last piece of the development puzzle to go into place before construction work begins.
And the time schedule is tight. Partner Terry Lynch has said the first phase has to begin by Monday, May 6, in order to meet the deadline involved with the city of Memphis’ $2 million in funding.
Carlisle’s company is a specialty hospitality company that operates 134 Wendy’s restaurant franchises in six states. But it and Carlisle himself are better known in Memphis for his role in the development of the area that the Chisca is a part.
“When I got involved in the Beale Street Landing project almost 40 years ago we were in the residential development business,” Carlisle said of the late-1970s retail development at Beale and Riverside Drive that included the old Captain Bilbo’s restaurant.
“This is the most unusual situation in the city of Memphis that the north Main Street part has been figured out and a few blocks south,” Carlisle said of the gap between the two.
“The core of the city from here all the way to the river has got to be developed. A part of that we lost when the markets collapsed,” Carlisle said of his plans for One Beale, a luxury hotel-residential high-rise development Carlisle is still pursuing on the site of what later became known as Number One Beale.
“This without question will be the centerpiece,” Carlisle added, “and it’s essential that it be done and that it be done successfully, and I think it will be.”
The Friday launch of the Chisca redevelopment was part of a busy weekend for the area including Saturday’s Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff win at FedExForum as well as the formal opening of Jerry Lee Lewis’ Café and Honky Tonk in the old Pat O’Brien’s space on Beale.