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VOL. 133 | NO. 86 | Monday, April 30, 2018

Gibson Building Owners to Partner with Orgel Family

By Patrick Lantrip

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The new owners of the Gibson Guitar Factory building in Downtown Memphis have partnered with a prominent local family to bring the prime parcel of land back to life. 

On Monday, April 30, New York-based real estate investment firm Somera Road Inc., which purchased the 150,000-plus-square-foot building and showroom located at 145 Lt. George W. Lee Ave. for $14.4 million in January, announced it would be partnering with Billy and Benjamin Orgel’s Orgel Family LP to redevelop the guitar factory.

“Somera came into this project with an open mind and deliberately kept all use options on the table for maximum flexibility,” Somera managing principal Ian Ross said in a release. “This approach is paying dividends. As demonstrated by the success of nearby revitalization projects such as Crosstown Concourse, One ServiceMaster Center, and the Orgel Family’s own Tennessee Brewery and Fire Station No. 3, we believe this project will be a great success. We look forward to the Orgel’s guidance and local IQ in making the best strategic decisions for the property and for all of the local Memphis stakeholders.”

Though Somera maintains a “flexible” leaseback arrangement with the Gibson Brands company, the company says it has received “substantial interest” in the property from potential users ranging from hospitality operators, retailers, food and beverage, entertainment destinations, office users, and industrial-oriented users.

In addition to the Gibson Guitar building, Somera also owns an adjacent 350-space parking lot on Pontotoc Avenue that the company says makes the parcel even more desirable to prospective users.

“We trust that their partnership will yield a forward-looking project that will engage the greater community, demonstrate long-term economic viability, and be civic-minded regarding the development of our Downtown core,” Jennifer Oswalt, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission said.

Somera says it has received “substantial interest” in the property from potential users ranging from hospitality operators, retailers, food and beverage, entertainment destinations, office users, and industrial-oriented users.

(Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

The Memphis plant was one of Gibson's three production facilities, and the only one that gave tours. It produced semi-hollow electric guitars, including the Gibson ES line, and custom instruments, while Gibson's solid-body electric guitars are made in Nashville, and its acoustic guitars are produce in Bozeman, Montana.

In October, the Nashville-based company confirmed it would be putting its Downtown Memphis factory on the market and build a new facility nearby.

In December, Somera, along with Miami-based Tricera Capital, purchased the property in what was described as a “complex transaction” at the time.

The two investment companies then tapped Andy Cates and Andrew Phillips of Colliers International for property management and leasing services.

Prior to that, Somera and Tricera also purchased the 24,080-square-foot Nashville warehouse, which sits on a half-acre in the North Gulch district, for $6.83 million, the Tennessean reported on Nov. 14.

“We look forward to repositioning the Gibson Guitar Factory asset as part of a larger revitalization of Downtown Memphis,” Benjamin Orgel said. “We commend Ian and the Somera team for seeing the value in our great city and hope that Somera and my family’s business can find other ways to work together to both maintain and improve the City in which I live and am proud to represent”

Meanwhile, another Orgel family redevelopment project located directly across the street from the factory in the old firehouse will reopen its doors as the Memphis Music Initiative May 1.

In July, the Memphis Music Initiative, a local nonprofit organization, signed a 10,000-square-foot lease to move its headquarters into the iconic Downtown structure, marking a new chapter in the building’s long history, which includes stints as a recording studio, nightclub and pop-up beer garden.

Darrell Cobbins, president and CEO of Universal Commercial Real Estate LLC, represented MMI in that deal, while Benjamin Orgel and Adam Slovis represented the landlord, Orgel Family LP.

Prior to the move, the 2-year-old music education-oriented nonprofit was being incubated at ArtsMemphis’ 575 S. Mendenhall Road location.

Most recently the building was used to host summer pop-up beer garden events in 2015 known as the Memphis Fire Haus, which was geared to raise awareness of the locale’s commercial viability.

Prior to that, the old firehouse was home to several nightclubs in the early days of FedExForum, and was where legendary music producer Chips Moman housed his Three Alarm Studio in the 1980s and early 1990s, when he famously worked with Ringo Starr and Bobby Womack.

Cobbins said his clients tapped Self + Tucker Architects and general contractor Metro Construction to handle the extensive interior renovations.

Additionally, Billy Orgel, an incumbent Shelby County Schools board member, is seeking re-election to the nonpartisan Shelby County Schools board in the August elections this year. 

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131