VOL. 129 | NO. 99 | Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Ashlar Hall Owner Hopeful for Building’s Rehab
By Amos Maki
The owner of Ashlar Hall says he would like to pursue renovation of the Midtown mansion and hopes he can find multiple tenants to fill the rehabilitated building, which would help offset the cost of repairs.
Kenny Medlin, owner of Ashlar Hall, says he still wants to pursue renovation of the Midtown mansion even after the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention dropped plans to use it.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Last week, the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention said it was dropping plans to use Ashlar Hall as a center for the arts over disagreements with the building’s current owner, Kenny Medlin.
Joe Thordarson, founder of the fantasy convention, said he had been trying to negotiate a deal with Medlin where Thordarson would make repairs to the property in return for rent of $1 per year for 12 years to house the comic and fantasy center. In return, Thordarson, a contractor, and other volunteers in the contracting and building industries would make the repairs needed to bring the deteriorating building up to code.
But Medlin said that proposal presented challenges.
“I did not want to be left holding the bag when MCFC tired of the renovation process and pulled out of the project, a real likelihood from my experience in the rehabbing business,” Medlin said.
Thordarson also said the rent Medlin wanted to charge, somewhere in the ballpark of $9,000 per month, was too high.
But Medlin said he was willing to give Thordarson rent credits.
“I advised MCFC that typical rent in the area would be about $9,000, however I would agree to a dollar-for-dollar credit for any repairs that he and his volunteers contributed to the rehab,” Medlin said. “Thus, MCFC would not have paid rent for several years until the credit balance was exhausted.”
Medlin, an acquaintance of the property’s previous owner, Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges, acquired the historic home from Hodges via a quitclaim deed. After racking up thousands of dollars in code violations, Hodges entered into an agreement with Environmental Court and the city to find a new owner that could make the repairs necessary to bring the 11,114-square-foot building into compliance and transferred the property to Medlin.
Medlin, who operates the nonprofit Urban Renaissance Initiative, has maintained he had no plans to make any money off of the property and has submitted multiple ideas for its reuse. His most recent idea involves turning Ashlar Hall into a facility for military veterans. Before that, Medlin suggested Ashlar Hall could become a home for terminally ill children.
Ashlar Hall, which was built in 1897 and served as the home of real estate developer Robert Brinkley Snowden, has turned into a dilapidated eyesore.
Hodges’ brother, Bernard Hodges, acquired the property for $300,000 in 1993 before transferring it via warranty deed to 1397 Central Ave LP in 1994. Robert Hodges began operating The Castle nightclub at the property after his brother acquired it, before closing the club’s doors around a decade later. The building has been vacant and deteriorating ever since, racking up a host of city code violations.
Fines are now starting to mount for Medlin.
Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter fined Medlin $50 a day for the last 30 days for the condition of the property’s pool, which amounts to $1,500.
Thordarson said he hopes Ashlar Hall can be restored and he is still searching for a location for his fantasy, art and comic center.
“We’ve had an enormous amount of support for our concept and we’re actively seeking a location for the art and fantasy center,” Thordarson said.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed because we feel like The Castle is the ideal location for us and we have the manpower to restore it, but we’re also feeling good about the fact that it can be restored. (Medlin) assured me and (Potter) he is going to restore The Castle.”