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VOL. 127 | NO. 85 | Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Restaurants Make Market Entrée at Crescent Center

By Sarah Baker

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The Poplar/240 corridor soon will add a pair of national restaurant tenants to its already booming portfolio of dining options.

The Crescent Center in East Memphis will be home to two new build-to-suit restaurants as plans are proceeding for two freestanding buildings.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The Land Use Control Board unanimously approved in April a planned development to add two upscale freestanding restaurants to the Crescent Center office building site at Poplar Avenue and Ridgeway Road.

“It went very well, there was no opposition, and we are set for our City Council meeting on May 15,” said Steve Guinn, vice president of Raleigh, N.C.-based Highwoods Properties Inc.

Those build-to-suit restaurants will be an 8,946-square-foot The Capital Grille to the west in front of the Crescent Center’s attached garage along Poplar and a 9,231-square-foot Seasons 52 at the corner of Poplar and Ridgeway. Both restaurants are new to the Memphis market.

Seasons 52 currently operates 22 locations in 13 states. Menus change four times a year, and none of the dishes exceed 475 calories. The new restaurant will create approximately 100 new jobs in the area, according to a company press release, and will be open in fall 2013.

“We are excited to bring Seasons 52 to Memphis,” company president Stephen Judge said. “It is an ideal setting for our guests – people who celebrate living well while enjoying upscale dining, shopping and entertainment.”

Highwoods acquired the 337,916-square-foot Crescent Center for $52.6 million from an affiliate of Behringer Harvard in July 2010, marking the biggest local commercial real estate deal in the past six years. The membership club inside the Class A, nine-story office complex – the Crescent Club – boasts more than 800 members, many of which are tenants in Highwoods’ office buildings in the area.

Crescent Center is operating at approximately 90 percent of occupancy. The construction of the westernmost restaurant, The Capital Grille, will result in the loss of parking spaces, but at that level of occupancy, there are some 500 spaces in the three-level parking deck that are not used.

“It’s only about 20 spaces, it’s a minor loss of spaces in total,” Guinn said. “We’re actually adding more surface spaces than we have got right now when we do the construction. We’ve got some site work development work to do prior to when the restaurants start. When that work is done is when we’re going to be adding those surface spaces.”

Highwoods is using The Crump Firm Inc. and ETI Corp. to do its site work plans and design.

Guinn said the thought process of adding restaurants to the development was post-acquisition, but the plan has been in the works for quite some time.

“A few tenants and a few of our customers had mentioned (a concept) like that to us, but it was pretty much driven by demand for additional high-quality restaurants in that area,” Guinn said.

Upscale restaurants in the immediate area include River Oaks Grill at Poplar and Interstate 240, Amerigo Italian Restaurant in Park Place Center, Circa by John Bragg and Ruth Chris’ Steak House in Regalia shopping center, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar along Poplar just to the east.

The area’s ability to not only attract prime tenants, but to retain them, speaks volumes, Guinn said.

“If you are at the restaurants in the area, the interesting thing is how many of them have been there for a long, long time,” Guinn said, listing Salsa Cocina Mexicana and Owen Brennan’s in Regalia as examples. “That shows the strength of the area, because they all have pretty good longevity to them.”

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