VOL. 128 | NO. 6 | Wednesday, January 9, 2013
James Lee House B&B Granted 10-Year Tax Freeze
By Sarah Baker
The James Lee House redevelopment is moving along in Victorian Village.
The Center City Revenue Finance Corp., a board of the Downtown Memphis Commission, approved a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement for The James Lee House Bed & Breakfast at 690 Adams Ave. at its Tuesday, Jan. 8, meeting. The PILOT benefit over the 10-year term is $309,778.
Representing The James Lee House LLC were partners Jose Velazquez, former executive director of Latino Memphis, and J.W. Gibson, owner of Gibson Cos. Inc. and also a partner in the Chisca Hotel redevelopment project.
The plans are to convert the 8,100-square-foot Lee House into a five-suite, luxury bed-and-breakfast inn, an investment of about $2.3 million. Suites will be named after each of the four families that have owned the property – the Lee Suite, the Goyer Suite, the Harsson suite, and now, the Velazquez suite, as Velazquez and his family plan to live on the third floor.
Redevelopment of the Lee House is a priority of the DMC, as listed on the organization’s “Top 10 Redevelopment Sites.” The property has been vacant for nearly 60 years.
DMC backed the 10-year PILOT, an exception from its eligible 7.5-year-term, because it will “save an important historical structure from neglect, remedy blight, create jobs, increase surrounding property values, revitalize a prominent corner in Memphis, provide needed hotel rooms in the core of the city, bolster tourism, reduce the city’s liability for owning a blighted structure, and stimulate economic development,” according to the PILOT application.
The DMC believes the project when completed will serve as a catalyst for future development in Victorian Village and the Memphis Medical District.
The James Lee House’s $1 transfer from the city to Velazquez was approved in August. It had been owned by the city since 1929 and was exempt from property taxes.
The 171-year-old house at Adams and Orleans Street is designated by the Library of Congress. Built in 1841 as a two-story, four-room farmhouse, the Lee House underwent massive renovations in three phases through the 1870s.
The house was built in the Italianate style, but with architectural influences of French second empire – dominated by heavy stone work, limestone on the front façade and scored stucco made to look like limestone throughout.
It was the original home of Memphis College of Art in 1927, thanks to a donation by James Lee’s eldest daughter, Rosa, until the organization moved to its current location in Overton Park in 1959, and has been vacant since.
The design plans will be presented to the DMC’s Design Review Board in February. Construction is scheduled to begin in February and be completed by November.
The architect for the project is Fleming Associates Architects PC and the contractor is Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC.