New Owner to Revive South Main Eyesore

By Madeline Faber

The long-maligned building at 107 S. Main St. has a new owner who has signed on to long-term redevelopment and short term-beautification. Prau Investments LLC purchased the 34,200-square-foot building on Dec. 11 for $720,000.

The ground floor of 107 S. Main is set to house a temporary mural to signal a change in ownership and functionality for the long-blighted building.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

This will be the second Downtown development undertaken by Suna Investments, which is also developing the historic Winchester Building at 179 Madison Ave. into a 58-room Ascend Hotel, the boutique brand of parent company Choice Hotels.

The blighted building at 107 South Main is one of the last hangers-on from South Main’s early days when the block between Union and Gayoso avenues was a dilapidated strip. While the street flourished with restaurants and residences over the next 17 years as part of the Center City Commission’s South Main Demonstration Block initiative, 107 South Main continued to deteriorate.

Last year, the protracted battle picked up steam when the city and the Downtown Memphis Commission filed a suit against property owner Allan Long in General Sessions Environmental Court. In an out-of-court agreement, Long agreed to stabilize the roof.

“If it had continued to go without some sort of redevelopment plan in place, it definitely would have posed a hazard to others,” said Leslie Gower, vice president of marketing and communications for the DMC.

She added that bringing the property under new ownership is a huge step, and she’s relieved that the property will finally become active again.

However, redevelopment won’t happen immediately as Suna Investments is busy getting the Winchester building in shape for its July opening as Hotel Napoleon.

Principal Snay Patel said something will be done with 107 South Main in a year or two.

He, along with business partner Jay Kumar, own two other hotels in the Southaven market. A hotel is possible for the South Main property, but nothing is being decided right now.

“I’ve never had a chance to develop a historic building like we have the opportunity with the Winchester building and with this building here,” Patel said. “But condos are not too different from hotels either.”

In the meantime, the DMC and Suna Investments are partnering to install a temporary mural in the lower level of the building.

“This project to do a temporary mural came out of our frustration in seeing the building sit like that for years on end,” said Brett Roler, director of planning with the DMC. “This is an important opportunity to turn a long-term blighted building into an asset. And I think the plan with the property owner is to get it back into productive use, but the idea behind the temporary mural is to make it look nice in the interim and provide some color and visual interest to the neighborhood.”

On Feb. 29, the DMC issued a call to artists for a mural design to signal that change is coming to the building. Suna Investments is on tap to replace the sliding doors and plywood, which should cost around $5,500. If the Center City Development Corp., an affiliate board of the DMC, approves the project, it will pay $10,000 in artist fees.

The deadline to apply is March 14, with the mural installed by May 1 to welcome Memphis in May.