VOL. 130 | NO. 135 | Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Historic Ashlar Hall in Limbo After ‘Renovation’
By Amos Maki
The owner of historic but troubled Ashlar Hall says he will move forward with plans to redevelop the property into a veterans center as questions continue to swirl around the state of the building, located at 1397 Central Ave.
The owner of Ashlar Hall says he will pursue the development of a veterans center at the historic building after an effort to transform the property into a restaurant and lounge backfired.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Kenny Medlin, whose nonprofit Urban Renaissance Initiative acquired Ashlar Hall via quitclaim deed from Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges in November 2013, says he is seeking financing to make repairs to the building and, hopefully, transform it into a service center for veterans.
“We’ll borrow money and I’ll do what I said I’d do, which is get the building fixed,” said Medlin. “Let’s just fix it, do what I wanted to in the beginning and figure out a way to pay for it.”
Medlin said he has tapped Boaz Home Improvement & Construction LLC to serve as the general contractor on the project and that he will work closely with the Memphis Landmarks Commission as he pursues redevelopment.
Medlin’s claim that he will now pursue a development geared towards veterans comes after a lease he signed with George Keith Williamson Jr. to turn Ashlar Hall into a restaurant backfired and resulted in portions of the 119-year-old Midtown mansion going missing.
Williamson removed portions of Ashlar Hall’s roof, a significant amount of copper from the building’s exterior, and large stone beams, or lintels, from the portico, Medlin said.
Medlin said the items Williamson removed, including restaurant equipment owned by Hodges, have not been found.
“All the stuff that was in there is now gone,” said Medlin, adding that he was in Chicago for a conference when Williamson removed the items. “The original stonework, that’s gone. I was told he’s under contract to sell the copper.”
The large blue protective tarps that had covered portions of Ashlar Hall’s roof are now dangling in front of and behind the building, leaving parts of the roof and building exposed to the elements.
“The roof area that was protected is now being less protected,” said Memphis Fire Department inspector Mark Adams during a Monday, July 13, hearing in Shelby County Environmental Court.
“We’ll borrow money and I’ll do what I said I’d do, which is get the building fixed.”
Urban Renaissance Initiative
Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter launched an investigation into Williamson, seeking to determine if he had the ability to turn Ashlar Hall into Faces Supper Club and Lounge.
The investigation turned up an arrest history for Williamson that included theft of services and passing bad checks. Williamson was accused of writing two bad checks totaling $80,000 to rent a suite at FedExForum for a Grizzlies game.
Williamson had provided documents to Environmental Court saying his company, Microsoft Gurus LLC, had around $2.2 million in assets, but the investigative file raises doubts about Williamson’s credibility.
The investigation also found that the accountant or financial professional who supposedly compiled the financial report did not work at a firm’s Memphis office.
Potter has issued a bench warrant for Williamson’s arrest. Adams, the fire inspector, suggested that the court contact Williamson’s probation officer in an effort to find him. Williamson could not be reached for comment.
Medlin said several contractors, including Memphis Fence Co. and landscaping business Mow It Right, were not paid for work they did on the property.
“(Williamson) hasn’t paid contractors, he hasn’t paid me, and things are missing,” Medlin said. “He is not very forthright in his truthfulness.”
The next hearing on Ashlar Hall is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 3.