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VOL. 122 | NO. 209 | Friday, November 2, 2007

South Main Classic Car Gallery Seeks LUCB Approval

By Andy Meek

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CAR-ISMA NECESSARY: Chuck Woodall, along with longtime friend and Memphis City Schools board member Dr. Jeff Warren (not shown), is seeking approval to open a combination art gallery and vintage automobile storage facility Downtown. -- Photo By Andy Meek

Plans for a new art gallery have been proposed for the South Main Arts District, which already is home to a bohemian mix of galleries, boutique shops and restaurants.

But what's different about this gallery that will be housed in a two-story brick garage building at 477 S. Front St. is it also includes something new for the area: a vintage automobile storage facility.

The two friends who conceived the project, Memphis City Schools board member Dr. Jeff Warren and Chuck Woodall, envision an auto-themed art space coupled with a museum-quality showroom of old cars. Part of their intent is to store and maintain the classic rides of various owners to keep them in top condition.

The proposal was on the agenda at the Oct. 11 meeting of the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board, but planners recommended holding off on a vote.

Among other things, planning officials wanted more detailed information on the proposed development's interior specifications that relate to the car repair service. Plans for the project will be resubmitted and approval could be granted sometime this month.

Classic art

Warren is an avid vintage car enthusiast and proud owner of such antique automobiles as a 1923 Ford Model T.

Woodall, a longtime friend of Warren's, already is living in the building's loft space and seems to be excited about filling that building with the sound of revving engines and the sight of gleaming chrome.

"I've been talking to Chuck, who's into restoring cars and keeping old cars and doing that sort of thing," Warren said. "And we just decided we'd try to get together where we could have a business storing cars and keeping them running.

"I think it's going to be nice to have all sorts of cool old cars just cruising around the South Main area."

The development doesn't have a formal name yet, although Warren said the partners are thinking of calling the place something along the lines of Classic Auto Art.

The garage building itself dates to 1920 and lies to the south of a smattering of vacant commercial and industrial buildings. The Potter's Loft condominium development is south of the property.

Always ready to run

Based on a letter of intent the partners submitted to local planners, they plan to keep a maximum of 12 to 15 cars in the building at any one time.

"One of the things we're going to do that's sort of neat is, let's say you live out in Collierville," Warren said. "We'll store your car, and say you want to drive it on a Saturday. We'll drive it out to Collierville to you on a trailer, let you drive it around and then come pick it up and take it back and store it."

Outside storage of vehicles or car parts is prohibited under the terms of the special use permit the partners are seeking. The developer also must install access ramps at the corner of Butler Avenue and Front Street to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Minor maintenance tasks may be performed on site including oil checks and battery testing.

"The other thing is Chuck is such a great mechanic, and one of the problems with having antique cars is if you don't drive them much, they don't always run," Warren said. "So he'll start them up and do general maintenance on them so that whenever you drive them, they work.

"And that's a key thing for antique car owners. If you've got the car but every time you go to drive it you've got to work on it for six hours to drive it for 15 minutes, that's not much fun."

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751