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VOL. 127 | NO. 232 | Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Garage Demolition First Step for Downtown Project

By Sarah Baker

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The Downtown parking garage attached to the 147 Jefferson Ave. building is being demolished, the first of many steps the property owner is taking to redevelop its adjacent 12-story masonry office building for a proposed mixed-use facility.

Biggs General Contracting Inc. has begun tearing down the non-operational parking structure that faces Maggie Isabel Street, which property owner Adam Airman said will be finished and replaced by May.

“I had to tear it down to rebuild,” Airman said. “Either a new parking garage or a parking service will be in its place by next year.”

Airman, an affiliate broker with Dan Stewart Realtors’ Commercial Division, has created an entity called City Center Services Inc. for the redevelopment of 147 Jefferson, also known as Jefferson Plaza. The 105,564-square-foot office building was built in 1954 at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Second Street.

The building was quitclaimed from the Shelby County Government to City Center Services Inc. in February 2011 for $160,500. It was transferred to the county in a 2008 tax sale after then-owner Common Ground LLC failed to pay county property taxes.

Airman envisions the building to include office space and possibly senior housing within the next five years.

“What I have in mind is for the building to be ground floor and the first floor support the courts … bail bond, lawyers, maybe mail companies like UPS or FedEx to support the court activities because they need a lot of that in the area,” Airman said. “And the upper floors, I’m thinking apartments for seniors maybe and people over 50 that would like to live Downtown. There will be a (new) parking garage and maybe some activity on the top floor for restaurants, weddings, whatever.”

Airman is in the process of preparing drawings for the site and is seeking private equity and also city/county assistance.

“This is all preliminary right now,” Airman said. “I’m working on the plans and trying to find people that can invest in rebuilding the project so we can revitalize Downtown. The whole idea is to revitalize the area because it doesn’t look good and homeless people try to go in and things like that.”

Airman’s 147 Jefferson property is to the immediate west of the Tenoke Building at 161 Jefferson, another 12-story building that is pending redevelopment, but as a hotel. It’s owned by Vince Vaghela of the Mississippi-based development company Vibrant Hotel Inc.

Paul Morris, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, said his team has been in conversation with both Airman and 161 Jefferson’s owner over the past year, encouraging their redevelopment efforts.

“They both spent money to do some things to make those buildings more presentable – removed graffiti, either removed some boards or put new boards up that look better, and just done some things for the meantime so that when people walk past, they don’t look quite as bad,” Morris said. “Neither one of them have finalized any development plans, but they’re looking to finance a redevelopment. There really needs to an investment in that entire block.

“Adam Airman’s taking a big effort to remove that big garage, which is a blight, so that’s great. That garage was basically condemned and was pretty ugly there across from Court Square and it’s coming down, which we see as good news.”

PROPERTY SALES 91 91 21,363
MORTGAGES 63 63 16,257
BUILDING PERMITS 166 167 42,087
BANKRUPTCIES 34 40 6,619