Crosstown Construction Bidding Process Underway

By Amos Maki

Construction documents for the ambitious Sears Crosstown redevelopment project have hit the street.

Memphis-based Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. is serving as the general contractor for the $180 million project, and bids for subcontracting work on everything from electrical systems to plumbing went out this week.

“The bidding process for subcontractors has started,” said Crosstown project co-leader Todd Richardson. “The docs are in folks’ hands and the process has stated.”

The search for subcontractors, which should take two to three months, is another milestone in the long-running effort to revitalize the mammoth Crosstown building.

“We were reflecting on it yesterday during a team meeting, and we describe these moments as the end of one chapter and the beginning of another,” said Richardson. “We still have so much work to do.”

Grinder, Taber & Grinder has erected a fence around the property and will soon begin placing trailers and other equipment there. Construction on the project will begin in the spring, Richardson said.

Work on the project has picked up steam since the city committed $15 million toward the redevelopment effort earlier this month, the final piece of a complicated funding puzzle. The city’s funding will be used for infrastructure improvements, such as sewer repairs and improving sidewalks and roads.

The Crosstown team is seeking to redevelop the giant 1.5 million-square-foot Sears building, constructed in 1927, through arts, education and health care. The plans also include around 260 apartments and some retail at the 86-year-old structure.

The building has been a vacant, deteriorating eyesore for years. The Sears retail store closed in 1983 and the distribution center was shuttered a decade later. Since then, neighborhood leaders, architects, preservationists and developers have been hoping the building could be brought back to life.

The development team’s plan focuses on creating a vibrant urban hub that brings students, health care providers and consumers, shoppers and residents together at the art deco landmark.

The project includes St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ALSAC (the fundraising arm of St. Jude), Crosstown Arts, Gestalt Community Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Church Health Center and Rhodes College as founding partners that have pledged to be tenants in the redeveloped building.

More tenants recently signaled their intent to come onboard. Christian Brothers University and the Southern College of Optometry have committed to leasing space. VO2 Networx, a Memphis-based information technology company, will move its headquarters from a location on Mt. Moriah Road into the building, and Goodwill Excel Center will open a charter school there.

Elizabeth and Staley Cates, president and chief investment officer of Southeastern Asset Management Inc, bought the property in 2007 and are donating it to Crosstown LLC. Any and all profits from the project will be plowed back into the development.

When asked if there were times he doubted the project would reach this point, Richardson said there were “too many to admit.”

“There were many dark days for sure, but here we are,” he said.