VOL. 10 | NO. 34 | Saturday, August 19, 2017
EMPHASIS: Commercial Real Estate
South City Redevelopment Heats Up With Renovations, New Construction
By Michael Waddell
The up-and-coming South City neighborhood is enjoying a resurgence of redevelopment activity lately, with the restoration of several historic properties, new multifamily construction and talk of bringing in a grocery store. The city and the Downtown Memphis Commission have been instrumental in the renewed interest, with noteworthy projects including the Clayborn Temple, the Universal Life Building and the demolition of Foote Homes.
Patterson Flats, a 175-unit apartment community developed by Elmington Capital Group, is among the projects underway in South City. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)
“Our two main goals are to grow Downtown’s population and to increase commercial property values over time,” said Brett Roler, vice president of planning and development for the Downtown Memphis Commission. “We do those things to help strengthen the tax base of Memphis and Shelby County. When you look to South City, I think it’s a prime opportunity to do both of those things.”
The portion of South City that is within the Central Business District covered by the DMC contains a high percentage of former industrial properties, and the area includes many vacant and blighted buildings.
“Until recently that area has been largely overlooked the development community, but with the new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, where the city is going in and working with the Choice Neighborhood funding to redevelop the Foote Homes site, we’re seeing that start to change and we’re seeing more interest in development headed towards South City,” said Roler, who cites the recent success with development on South Main Street.
Oden & Associates Inc., a business-to-business marketing and communications firm, plans to relocate its headquarters into a currently vacant and blighted 77-year-old warehouse space at the corner of Vance and B.B. King Boulevard, two blocks from FedExForum. The firm has operated Downtown for nearly 22 years, with its current offices in Pembroke Square across from Peabody Place Tower.
“We love Downtown, and we had been looking for several years at opportunities to own our own building in order to have a little more control over our own destiny,” said Oden principal and CEO William F. Carkeet.
Carkeet and business partner Bret Terwilleger, Oden principal and COO/chief creative officer, purchased the property, which most recently had housed a commercial printing company, a couple of years ago for $500,000. Total renovation costs are expected to approach $3 million.
The property actually consists of two buildings joined by a connector. The newer 14,000-square-foot building was built in 1990s and will be used as a parking garage for the company’s employees.
“We are gutting the older building, and completely reconfiguring the inside,” said Carkeet. “We’re really looking forward to bringing some life to that corner and hopefully being a catalyst for future development in the area.”
Demolition work will get underway in the coming weeks, and Carkeet estimates that they could move in by March. ArchInc is working on the layout designs, and Montgomery Martin Contractors is the general contractor.
“We think it’s significant that there’s a creative firm that wants to plant a flag in the neighborhood,” said Roler. “We think that’s a good indicator of renewed interest and people’s willingness to start to develop in that area.”
The Memphis Music Initiative has leased the historic Firehouse #3 at the corner of B.B. King Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. The 10,000-square-foot former firehouse – which later housed a music recording studio followed by a couple of nightclubs before being shuttered altogether – is being renovated by landlord Orgel Family LP, with design work by Self+Tucker Architects and construction by Metro Construction.
“Our goal is to be able to provide more music engagement and youth development opportunities, particularly to brown and black youth in Memphis who don’t have enough access to those kind of positive, creative activities,” said MMI chief operating and strategy officer Amber Hamilton.
The nonprofit has aspirations to hold community meetings and block parties at the new location, which will feature an interior with high ceilings and vibrant use of color. The renovation includes installation of new mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing and an elevator, and glass work will likely be added to the signature doors, which currently have no glass.
“Being on MLK and B.B. King of course has historical significance and being so close to Beale Street and its historical legacy, particularly around black music art forms, really resonated with us,” said Hamilton. “The space itself felt like something we could customize, make our own and add a creative flavor to.”
MMI should move in by early next year.
Self+Tucker is also heavily involved with the Universal Life Insurance building at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue & Danny Thomas Boulevard. The firm’s partners, Jimmie Tucker and Juan Self, bought the building more than a decade ago with plans to redevelop it before the Great Recession of 2009 put a halt to their plans.
“Thanks to a challenge grant we secured three years ago from the federal government, we’ve finally been able to move forward with the project,” Self said.
Now, the firm plans to occupy roughly 5,000 square feet of the 33,000-square-foot, three-story building, and the remaining space will be leased out to other office tenants. The city of Memphis is a major partner with Self+Tucker on the project and will be leasing out a significant portion of the extra space.
“We’ve been successful in attracting several other tenants, so the building should be close to 85 percent to 90 percent occupied when it opens in March of next year,” Self said.
Montgomery Martin Contractors and Bricks Inc. are leading the renovation work on the $4.5 million project, which will include new electrical, heating, plumbing, air conditioning systems, and roofing, along with replacement of exterior windows and restoration of the facade.
Construction is underway on a new restaurant and bar concept (still to be named) going in at Carolina Avenue just west of Third Street. The DMC provided an exterior improvement grant for the location, which sits near to Wayne’s Candy. Brad Barnett is the property owner, and he is working with developer Matt Hopper.
Nashville-based developer Elmington Capital Group, doing business as ECG Patterson Development LLC, has built several affordable housing developments in Memphis, including Crescent Bluffs I and II, Second Street Flats and the 155-unit Uptown Flats. The company is currently working on the 175-unit Patterson Flats in South City, and they are planning a project called Forum Flats just south of FedExForum.
“We’re really excited about those projects. They promise to bring high-quality affordable housing to the neighborhood,” Roler said.
The former Foote Homes site is being cleared, with demolition work still underway on the western end of the large property. Buildout is expected by 2021 for 712 units of housing, 480 of which will be placement units for public housing.
A grocery store could also be on the way to the area, but there are no concrete plans yet.
“We’re always looking for ways to attract a grocery store to Downtown,” Roler said. “It’s a high priority.”
In addition to tax incentives, development loans and grants, the DMC recently pledged $50,000 per year for five years to create a special grant tailor-made for the unique challenges and opportunities in the South City neighborhood. The focus of the program will be to work with commercial property owners to make exterior improvements and repairs to their buildings and sites in the neighborhood.
Once it is fully developed, the new grant will be unveiled later this fall.
“We want to spur investment in the neighborhood, enhance the pedestrian experience by making the fronts of buildings and the perimeters of sites look nicer, strengthen the character of important places and businesses within South City, and help new businesses succeed by enhancing their curb appeal in a way they might not be able to do without a grant,” Roler said.