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VOL. 129 | NO. 155 | Monday, August 11, 2014

Midtown Corner Could See Turnaround

By Amos Maki

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While Midtown as a whole is experiencing a resurgence, two properties at the key intersection of Union Avenue and McLean Boulevard remain vacant, decaying eyesores.

The vacant office building and hotel at the southwest corner of Union Avenue and McLean Boulevard are under contract to be sold, according to a real estate agent representing the owner.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

But a real estate agent representing the owner of the vacant office building and hotel at the southwest corner of Union and McLean says both properties are under contract to be sold.

“It’s under contract,” said Tony Westmoreland, an agent at One Source Commercial. “I can tell you that it’s a large group. I can’t give you a time frame because it all depends on working out a deal with tenants.”

The potential sale comes as the city of Memphis is stepping up code enforcement efforts against the properties, which are surrounded by chain link fences and at times covered with trash and overgrowth, in defiance of a court order and in contrast to the rise in investment in Midtown.

“Everybody of course is concerned about it,” said Mary Baker, a former city planner and current board member of the Midtown Memphis Development Corp. “With everything else happening in Midtown, we hope that will result in attracting some sort of redevelopment of that site with someone with the means to redevelop it or tear it down.”

The Memphis Fire Department has two active anti-neglect cases against the properties in Environmental Court, and the city is exploring filing a civil public nuisance case against the owners of the properties under the Neighborhood Preservation Act.

Under the Neighborhood Preservation Act, a court could order the owners to make the repairs necessary to make the property inhabitable or to demolish it.

“It’s one of our most aggressive tools available for the enforcement of codes, and when other attempts have failed or not achieved the results we need, sometimes that is the next step,” said attorney Steve Barlow, who has represented the city in many anti-neglect cases.

In the anti-neglect cases brought against the properties by the Fire Department, Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter ordered that security fences that meet code standards be installed and that the properties should be “maintained and mowed, and free from trash and litter.”

The existing chain link fences do not comply with the Unified Development Code, according to Josh Whitehead, planning director for the Memphis & Shelby County Office of Planning and Development. And during a recent visit, the properties had overgrown grass and weeds and various types of litter, from cigarette packages to plastic bags.

Westmoreland said the owners of the buildings have hired a security firm and employed a company to maintain the appearance of the properties.

The three-story, 119,566-square-foot office building fronting the corner of the intersection at 1835 Union is owned by 1835 Memphis Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Las Vegas-based Integrated Financial Associates Inc.

The 164,969-square-foot hotel property at 1837 Union is owned by Tennvada Holdings I LLC, also an affiliate of Integrated Financial Associates Inc.

Bill Dyer of Integrated Financial Associates and the registered agent for both Midtown properties did not return a phone call seeking comment, but both the hotel and office ownership groups are involved in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in Las Vegas.

The two properties stand in stark contrast to the investment boom in Midtown.

Overton Square and the Broad Avenue Arts District have made strong comebacks and just a few blocks down Union, Kroger is investing heavily in a redeveloped store while The Fresh Market will soon open its new store at Union and Cooper Street.

“It’s happening everywhere, and if you’re like me walking your dog and you’re out on the street quite a bit, you see people pouring money into their houses,” Baker said. “There’s just a lot of money being invested in Midtown in the businesses and the homes.”

A major roadblock to reviving the two properties could be the cost it would take to redevelop them into viable structures or raze them to make way for new development.

“What do you do with buildings like that?” Baker said. “The cost of tearing them down would be enormous. The cost of renovating them would be enormous. It’s very tough.”

Westmoreland urged patience, saying it takes time to consummate a complicated real estate deal.

“We all want the property to be something better, but you can’t force somebody to buy the property,” Westmoreland said. “Fortunately, Midtown is coming up and that’s how we were able to get a buyer.

“We are working with people on a daily basis to make sure something comes through there. They’re really trying to get something solid for that corner.”

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131