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VOL. 128 | NO. 109 | Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Removing Barriers

Chisca redevelopment to properly connect Downtown sectors

By Amos Maki

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While enjoying a meal near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Terry Lynch reminisced on the wilting but salvageable Chisca Hotel in Downtown Memphis.

Jose Reyes and Mario Lopez of Montgomery Martin Contractors work to remove plywood covering the windows of the Chisca Hotel, as part of early renovation efforts on the property. 

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

“It’s a vision that is going to happen,” Lynch said of the eight-story hotel.

Indeed, that vision is becoming a reality as contractors began last week tearing away plywood that has covered hundreds of windows at the old hotel at Main Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.

Now, light is slowly starting to seep into the murky reaches of the building. Some areas haven’t seen the sun in years. The Church of God in Christ, which owned the hotel, abandoned it in the 1990s.

Contractor Jose Reyes estimates the century-old building contains 600 windows – those looking outside and the hotel and interior windows. If you look closely at some of the exposed windows you will notice some have been painted in different “test colors” so the developers pick the shade that is just right.

Paul Morris, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, said the project was about more than repairing one aging, abandoned building and removing a 30-year eyesore.

It was about connecting the Beale Street Entertainment District and FedExForum with Main Street and the South Main Historic Arts District.

“You know what a black hole is? It sucks the life and energy out of everything,” Morris said. “For too long the Chisca served as a black hole separating South Main from the Entertainment District and the rest of Downtown. It was a visual barrier.”

The Carlisle Corp., Terry Lynch, Gary Prosterman and Karl Schledwitz are the ownership group behind the $24 million renovation.

Aiding the project is $3 million in incentives for blight removal from the city of Memphis.

The ownership group, Main Street Apartment Partners LLC, last year bought the foundering hotel from the Church of God in Christ.

The owners said they planned on transforming the currently blighted property into 165 apartments. There will be around 115 single-unit apartments and another 50 two-bedroom units as well as 10 townhouses on the property.

The Chisca also has 5,500 square feet of ground floor commercial space and a 110-space parking garage.

The project also will recognize the Chisca’s unique role in the city’s musical legacy with a tribute space for Dewey Phillips, the DJ that first played Elvis Presley on air from the Chisca in 1954.

PROPERTY SALES 83 405 4,276
MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149