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VOL. 129 | NO. 148 | Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chisca Rebirth

Historic hotel moves to next redevelopment steps

By Amos Maki

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As the Carlisle Corp. began to really delve into the guts of the old Chisca Hotel on Main Street, company officials discovered hidden gem after hidden gem.

Chase Carlisle of the Carlisle Corp. stands in the ground floor of the Chisca Hotel building, which will be divided into several retail spaces with residential units in the upper floors.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The crown molding on the ceiling that survived decades of neglect, the glass storefront that runs the length of the property that was obscured for years by wood panels, the terra cotta features ringing the top of the 1913 building all appeared to be salvageable, warming the hearts of the development team.

“We’re romantics for history,” said Chase Carlisle, director of real estate and development for Carlisle Corp. “We find little treasures here and there and as we go along we’re trying to preserve as much as we can. During the demolition phase you would pull back a layer and say, ‘Wow, we didn’t know that was there.’”

Over the last two weeks, Carlisle Corp. closed on a key financing piece for the project and gave general contractor Montgomery Martin Contractors the green light to begin the bulk of the redevelopment efforts required to turn what was a deteriorating eyesore into a vibrant apartment community with touches of commercial space.

The original team behind the Chisca redevelopment effort approached Carlisle Corp., which has a long and storied history in Downtown development, in April 2013 asking if the company would like to become the driving force behind the project.

“We said we loved the deal and asked how much of it we could have,” said Carlisle with a laugh. “It’s one of those projects we were interested in and we would have a hand in something the city could be proud of.”

Carlisle Corp. is undertaking a roughly $28 million historic renovation to transform the old hotel, which sits at the nexus between the booming South Main Historic Arts District neighborhood and the Beale Street Entertainment District, into 161 apartments with retail and restaurant space.

The project will feature a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom, two-bedroom loft units and a few two-story townhomes. Prices will start at around $750 for the smaller units and climb to around $2,100 for the townhome units. The apartments will include granite counter and vanity tops and chrome finishes.

On a recent morning crews from Montgomery Martin were busy working on converting the second floor of the building that connects the original 1913 hotel building to a 1961 addition into what will be an open-air community area that will include a sunning pool, farm table, prep sink, fire pit and soft, lush greenery.

The Chisca, the largest hotel in Memphis at the time it opened in 1913, is dripping with history.

A Montgomery Martin Contractors worker removes molding and fixtures from the eighth floor of the Chisca Hotel buidling. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Chisca remained an important meeting place for civic organizations and later served as the headquarters for the Church of God in Christ.

On July 7, 1954, WHBQ’s Dewey Phillips played Elvis Presley for the first time on radio with his first recording of “That’s All Right,” setting off a cultural earthquake that still reverberates today. The area Phillips broadcast from is being converted into an apartment.

“Somebody will be able to rent it and live in the place where rock ‘n’ roll first went out over the airwaves,” said Carlisle.

The Chisca was abandoned in the 1980s and fell into disrepair. Even as the South Main neighborhood blossomed into a residential and commercial force Downtown and the FedExForum was built in the Beale Street Entertainment District, the Chisca languished.

With its redevelopment, the Chisca will again serve as a key point Downtown.

“We’re in the middle of a renaissance here Downtown and this will connect what is going on north of us to South Main,” Carlisle said. “It’s really helping connect the dots with everything else that is happening around us.”

PROPERTY SALES 53 210 10,146
MORTGAGES 53 214 11,160
BUILDING PERMITS 245 474 22,646
BANKRUPTCIES 271 271 6,490