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VOL. 128 | NO. 219 | Friday, November 8, 2013

Crosstown Plans Continue to Evolve

By Bill Dries

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The National Park Service nixed plans for planting greenery on one side of the Crosstown parking garage but is OK with developers of the old Sears Crosstown property replacing windows in the mammoth building with new, similar-looking and configured ones.

An artist's rendering shows the proposed Crosstown market street/activity plaza.

(Design Review Board)

Those are just some of the evolving details of the $180 million development that Crosstown LLC hopes to begin early next year.

The review by the National Park Service is essential to receiving federal historic tax credits that are part of the financing for the project.

The garage will still be restored, but without the plantings that were originally planned as a feature of the exterior.

Developers argued that the original windows are too deteriorated to repair, which is normally the first choice of park service preservationists. In this case, the park service agreed all of the windows, which are a major architectural feature across the north and south faces of the Crosstown building, could be replaced. The new ones would include the same section of opening panes in the middle, which follows the original design.

The windows are present in all three of the stages of the building, from the 1927 original to the 1950s addition. But Tony Bologna, an architecture and planning consultant to the Crosstown developers, said the windows differ from one part of the building to another when it comes to details like their color and how they were made.

The new windows will be based on a single old window configuration, with planners still working on the exact color of the window framings.

Crosstown LLC has commitments from eight “founding partners” to use 600,000 square feet in the 1 million-square-foot building. The partners are Crosstown Arts, Gestalt Community Schools, Church Health Center, Methodist Healthcare, Memphis Teacher Residency, Rhodes College, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude.

Their uses and others will include commercial, office space, retail and residential uses within the building.

Still uncommitted at this point is $15 million in funding the developers are seeking from the city of Memphis. That funding would be for infrastructure work, including some interior demolition to create several atriums within the existing building.

Bologna said this week that demolition will also include a part of the original 1927 building, a single-story structure behind the tower fronting North Watkins Street that is too deteriorated to save. It was the site of the original power plant for the tower and its two wings, all of which were built in 180 days in 1927.

Bologna also said the developers and National Park Service officials are still discussing deteriorating parapets on the fifth floor that are five to 10 degrees out of plumb by Bologna’s estimate.

A drive-thru lane for the Church Health Center Clinic that would have linked up with Claybrook Street would no longer link with the street in the latest set of plans.

Design plans approved Wednesday, Nov. 6, by the Downtown Memphis Commission Design Review Board still show a main entrance on the south side of the building instead of the old main entrance on North Watkins. The entrance off Cleveland Street across the site’s large southern parking lot, east of the parking garage, would also include retail along the building’s former loading dock. The entrance to a charter school on the fourth and fifth floors of the building would be on the north side.

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