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VOL. 130 | NO. 201 | Thursday, October 15, 2015

Long-Awaited Artesian Opens on Riverside

By Madeline Faber

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Despite being unfinished and empty for six years, the 16-story building at the corner of Riverside and Channel 3 drives has remained a landmark in the Downtown skyline.

The Artesian Metropolitan Residences, at 717 Riverside Drive, are giving new life to a Downtown condo project that stalled during the recession.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

And finally, the lights are coming on.

A grand opening for the Artesian Metropolitan Residences is planned at the 717 Riverside Drive location Thursday, Oct. 15.

The building first caught the attention of Walker Thrash, partner with the Mississippi-based Thrash Group, in 2009. Its original developers, Bryan Co., defaulted on a $58.6 million loan, and construction ceased on the condo tower to be dubbed The Horizon.

Thrash, who has multifamily, hospitality and commercial properties across 40 markets, knew that the building would be a good segue way into the Memphis scene.

“We’re sold on the market as a whole,” he said. “I’m confident that if we walked into the market at a different time, under a different economic circumstance, that there would have been two to three other condo developments going on.”

Because of the economic downturn, Thrash was able to buy the building for $13.5 million, much less than he expected, and get it up and running in barely a year.

“We would never have been able to purchase this asset in a normal environment,” he said. “We got excited about the prospect of spending more on the actual product and do it in the rehab. And that’s what it really needed, a total reinvention.”

Over the past year, his team has poured $15 million to $20 million into renovations. They downsized the Horizon’s initial floor plan from 155 units to 143 units, making room for penthouse suites. Overall, the size of the units didn’t change much.

The building itself, Thrash said, was in excellent condition.

“We’ve done our fair share of distressed buildings where we walk in behind a failed project. It’s become somewhat of a niche for us,” he said. “But I’ve never found one that was new construction and had been sitting vacant for as long as that one and in as good a shape.”

Dallas-based Flick Mars Architects gave the tower a refresh, and the units a contemporary, minimalist design.

“In 2015, people expect a different living space than they did in 2005, 2006, 2007 when this drawing was being developed,” Thrash added.

The first phase for pre-sale includes floors 2, 6, 11 and 12. Of this initial phase, the condos range from 1,097 square feet to 3,035 square feet with listed prices ranging from $165,000 to $667,000. The two penthouses will go more than $1 million, Thrash said.

Marx-Bensdorf Realtors is handling sales, and the target demographic reaches from young professionals to retirees to East Memphis families looking for a second home.

Thirty units have already sold.

The building is unusual for a Downtown environment in that it has a great deal of surrounding green space.

“It’s almost like a campus,” Thrash said.

Thrash used the excess real estate to build amenities like a tennis court; bocce ball court; a pet park segregated for large and small dogs; a yoga room; workout facility; indoor and outdoor pools; two catering kitchens for events; a boardroom/private dining area and a rooftop deck.

He also intends to leverage the Artesian’s location, buttressing the Riverside Drive pedestrian trail and the integrated path system that leads to the Harahan Bridge, by adding recreation-friendly amenities like an interior, air-conditioned bike storage room and easy-access entry and exit gates to the trails.

Thrash said that it was always his vision to keep the building as luxury condos, and he believes that bringing it back to life will spur further development.

“I really think that if we would have looked in Memphis for a piece of raw land to build a structure on, we would have eventually found ourselves in that South Main area,” he said. “It’s an impressive place. I think the South Main and south end of Downton is just poised for a lot of growth. I think you’ll see a lot more residential happen.”

Thrash added that he is looking at a few other residential and hospitality developments in South Main and “central Downtown”.

“There really is no other larger-scale new product in Downtown Memphis,” he said. “I hope that we help spur that bookend on the south side of town and bring some new life because there’s a lot of real estate between the Artesian and Downtown to be developed.”

PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468