VOL. 130 | NO. 169 | Monday, August 31, 2015
By LANCE WIEDOWER
Sitting vacant for more than 20 years didn’t do any favors for the Chisca Hotel property along South Main Street. But this week marks a major milestone in the historic structure’s story as residents begin moving into the Plaza, the newer of The Chisca on Main’s two buildings.
Built in 1961 as a motor court motel, the building features four floors of eight units each.
It’s a new beginning for the neighborhood, and the culmination of an apartment project that has been years in the making.
“This project is important to us,” said Chase Carlisle, director of real estate for Carlisle Corp. “Our offices are a block away. It’s in our neighborhood. We got into this from a civic perspective. This is about doing it the right way. We’re excited the public has been so supportive and there has been such a tremendous response.”
The initial move-in of residents into The Chisca’s first phase is just the start of things in the coming weeks. On Sept. 24, the building will host the Downtown Memphis Commission’s annual meeting. The street will be blocked from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Pontotoc Avenue to celebrate the Downtown Vision Awards ceremony while also showcasing The Chisca.
A new Lyfe Kitchen restaurant will open later this fall and full completion of The Chisca is expected by the end of the year.
The project hasn’t always been easy, Carlisle said. Many construction projects face delays of some sort, and historic renovations can bring their own issues.
“One of the things that was difficult was getting the building dried in,” he said. “We had so much facade restoration; when you have a building that’s 102 years old and it’s been vacant and neglected for 20 years, the roof is damaged and water begins seeping in behind the brick and into the building.
“We’ve done an extensive amount of facade restoration to make sure the building is around for another 100 years.”
Elements like the penthouse units, which previously existed as a library, had to be rebuilt.
There are 161 units in the entire project, including the 32 in the Plaza that are complete. The 129 in the Chisca Hotel building feature a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Amenities include an enclosed courtyard with reflecting pool, fitness center, restaurants, washer and dryers, granite countertops and more.
“One of the things that makes this project special is it will be a true urban community,” Carlisle said. “We fit what the building’s character tells us it should be. Some units are lofted. Some have efficiencies. There is a range of price points and options for people and we think that will drive a range of renters.
“I think the term urban community is overused like in the restaurant industry with fresh and organic. But I think this building will make us have this kind of environment.”
The first of two restaurants, Lyfe Kitchen, will open in a 3,700-square-foot space later this fall, possibly by Thanksgiving. The 2,200-square-foot patio is part of the original hotel’s swimming pool, which was only recently filled in. The patio also will feature a 40-foot herb wall.
A second restaurant, which Carlisle didn’t identify, is in the works for a 5,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of the Chisca Hotel building.
One of the property’s gathering spots will be a 9,000-square-foot, second-floor terrace deck that sits in the middle of the older building. At one point the space was the old hotel’s ballroom where icons such as B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Al Green and Stevie Wonder performed.
Every second-floor unit will have its own private balcony onto the terrace deck, which will feature several brick planters, fire pits and rock tables, all with their own seating areas.
The windows looking out onto the terrace are just a fraction of the glass throughout the property. Bringing natural light into both buildings was a design priority; the many windows also help to open up views of the surrounding neighborhood, the Mississippi River, parts of Beale Street and FedExForum.
“We pushed glass as much as we could,” Carlisle said. “This development has more glass per square foot than any other development Downtown. There are very few units that don’t have natural light to a bedroom.”
The original hotel lobby doesn’t have a specific use yet; Carlisle said it will likely be a public space.
“We will leave this open,” he said. “We have ideas but we’re not sure what it will look like. It could be a small art gallery space or small pop-up space for events. We’re flexible and we think there are several possibilities.”
Both buildings will have their own parking garages. To the east of the building will be an existing surface parking lot that is being scraped and redone, complete with wrought-iron and brick fencing around its perimeter. The section of Mulberry Street between the hotel and parking lot has been closed by the city and deeded to the property.