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VOL. 117 | NO. 121 | Monday, June 23, 2003

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Great old building keeps firm Downtown Great old building keeps firm Downtown


The Daily News

The new Downtown elementary school, opening in August, might fill a public school void in the area, but it caused a problem for one Memphis architectural firm.

Nathan Evans Taylor Coleman Foster in business since 1911, when it began as Coleman Foster owned a 10,000-square-foot building at Court Avenue and Fourth Street, ground zero for the new school.

We had 90 days to get out, said partner James Evans, laughing about the time crunch the firm faced in finding a new location to purchase.

So instead of buying, the firm leased an 8,600-square-foot space in Pontotoc Place at 17 W. Pontotoc Ave., overlooking the river in the South Main district. But after five years, the firm principals are on their way to a new Downtown locale with the purchase of a 12,500-square-foot building in the Pinch District.

The building, at 345-347 N. Main St., was purchased for $475,000. A separate limited liability corporation was established for the renovation work that originally was budgeted at $200,000.

We want to own our own place and stay Downtown, Evans said. Its a great old building.

Tucker Beck of Crye-Leike Commercial represented the buyer in the purchase. Ambassador Construction Co. of DeSoto County, Miss., is the contractor for the renovation project.

The move comes on the heels of another business development in the mostly entertainment district. It was announced in February that the former home of Jakes Place restaurant at 356 N. Main will be renovated into offices. Pro Sales Inc., a sales firm representing local minority businesses with offices currently at 2600 Poplar Ave., will use the office.

With the relocation of two businesses to the Pinch, new restaurants eventually could follow.

The more people you get on the streets, I think youll find that restaurants will find the area more attractive, said Myron Hughes, Center City Commission vice president of planning and development, at a February meeting. Once theres critical mass, other things will follow.

The Center City Development Corp. provided a loan for the refurbishment of Jakes Place, something the architectural firm is seeking as well. The firm will complete $60,000 of work on the brick exterior, which has caused the renovation budget to balloon to $300,000, Evans said. The loan would cover that work.

The building, dating from the 1880s, is in good shape, but needs some improvements. Because of past flooding of the Gayoso Bayou, the floors originally were constructed with a 16-inch slope from front to back to allow for drainage.

When renovation work is complete, the slope will be gone and the building will be wheelchair accessible. Several bricked-over windows will be reopened.

Completion date for the renovation has not been set, but the firms lease at Pontotoc Place expires Sept. 30, Evans said, meaning a move will take place sometime prior.

When the building originally opened, it housed a butcher and saloon, Evans said. The owners lived on the second floor.

Before the firm bought the building, it was used as a photography studio.

There are two apartments on the second floor, one currently occupied. Evans said the firm eventually might expand into the second floor, but for now, he expects the firm will rent out the second apartment when the renovation work is completed.

The new building will provide nearly 4,000 additional square feet compared to the Pontotoc Place office, giving the 20-employee firm much-needed storage space.

Nathan Evans Taylor Coleman Foster soon will become Evans Taylor Foster Childress due to the retirements of Tom Nathan and Charles Coleman. Mike Childress has joined as a new principal.

The firm has a history intertwined with several Memphis buildings, as it designed the state and county office buildings, several buildings on the University of Tennessee at Memphis campus and Saint Francis Hospital, and helped design the Criminal Justice Center and Regional Medical Center at Memphis.


PROPERTY SALES 207 263 9,865
MORTGAGES 197 246 10,862
BUILDING PERMITS 138 686 21,643
BANKRUPTCIES 0 256 6,219