Touring 100 N. Main: Shattered glass, shell casings, law books and spectacular views

The Downtown Memphis Commission is to issue a request for proposals June 15, but is taking steps already to find a new developer and life for the city’s tallest building.

“We’re at 12,300 steps,” Brett Roler announced midmorning Sunday, May 30. Roler had glanced at his Fitbit as he, a reporter and photographer descended 100 North Main Building’s dark stairwell.

This is the fifth or sixth tour up the 38 floors that the commission’s vice president has led since April.

Developers. Architects. Engineers. Public officials. Roler will take anyone who can help breathe new life into the dark, vacant, ransacked and vandalized skyscraper is welcome to take the guided hike.

He plans more tours, and soon. Summer is approaching, and climbing up the powerless tower in the heat may be too dangerous.

“Wear sturdy shoes,” Roler advised, because of all the broken glass.

“Wear a mask,” he said, because of the dusty stairwell.

“Bring a flashlight,” he said, because light is limited in the powerless building.

“Bring a water bottle,” he said, because of the exertion.

The 10 high-speed elevators – the five express ones ascended 700 feet per minute in their day – are useless now.

But Roler’s leadership made the challenge surprisingly doable for a reporter who hasn’t strenuously exercised since the pandemic started 14 months earlier.

Roler often stopped the stairwell climb to explore an entire, deserted floor. On Sunday, the trio caught their breath by wandering through floors 14, 18, 21, 25, 28, 30, 34, 35, 36 and 37.

Roler’s sunny curiosity elevated the dimly lit tour. “Let’s see what’s in here,” he said before opening the door to floor 30. “There’s a surprise around every corner.”

But the urban trek began with an orienting stroll around the entire block, followed by a pre-amble up the parking garage’s spiraling ramp.

Someone mentioned the oddity of a kitchen blender sitting on the ramp. Roler responded, “That’s not the weirdest thing you’re going to see.”

Right he was.

The skyscraper was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a fine example of late International style architecture. But inside, the atmosphere created by darkness and massive evidence of misbehavior was more Gothic.

An unknowable number of humans have breached the tower since the last of the paying tenants left seven years ago.

The benign ones, perhaps, have been the urban explorers, who just wanted to be photographed illegally atop the city’s Mount Everest.

But the vandals have been ferocious.

Glass is their enemy, and they shattered a lot of it: Light fixtures; the small, square windows of every stairwell door; scores of exterior windows; glass partitions of desk cubicles; the plate glass separating the floor lobby from a law office’s reception desk.

The dining tables and chairs of the old Top of the 100 revolving, rooftop restaurant were hurled through the large, angled windows onto the gravel roof below.

Of all the wall-mounted, glass encasements for fire extinguishers on each floor, tour-takers on Sunday spotted only one that had not been shattered.

Graffiti marks much of the interior. From “Chance in yo pants” in the stairwell on floor 17 to “Don’t B A Democrat” on level 21.

Just as destructive have been the thieves of copper and other material of value. Gaping holes are punched through the sheetrock walls. Ceiling panels are torn away, and uncountable light fixtures dangle by their wires.

The stairwell’s concrete steps on the lower floors are consistently and mysteriously chipped in the middle of each step. Roler speculates that perhaps copper thieves damaged the stairs by dragging heavy objects down them.

The commission has taken a number of measures to secure the property since its Downtown Mobility Authority bought 100 North Main for $10.75 million earlier this year. But the preceding owners, including New York-based Townhouse Management, had allowed the building to sit vacant, deteriorate and be abused the past since 2014.


Roler had to unlock the outside gate and two more doors to get inside. Commission personnel monitor the fence twice daily for telltale damage and illegal entry.

But 100 North Main is so vast that the best way to secure the building is to populate it with tenants, Roler said.

Even the legal visitors left disturbing waste.

The Shelby County SWAT team has used the building for training. So on the floors are countless simulation cartridges, which have metal casings but paint instead of harmful bullets. And on numerous walls are posters with the target images of men with the kind of head scarfs that are perhaps worn by terrorists. Images of angry looking women pointing a gun are also used as targets.


A large knife lay ominously on one office floor.

Not that the skyscraper doesn’t shelter a ton of more benign, even humorous objects. Like the antique Battle Creek brand vibrating belt “fat shaker” in the massage room of the Tennessee Club on the penultimate floor.

The club’s space was of its time. At the rear of the dining area is a door marked, “Men’s Dining Room.”

Despite the daunting destruction, 100 North Main’s unrivaled views prevail over the darkness. By floor 30, the tour-takers could look down on the nearby Raymond James Tower.

 

<strong>Despite the daunting destruction, the unrivaled views from 100 North Main prevail.</strong>&nbsp;(Brad Vest/Special to the Daily Memphian)
Despite the daunting destruction, the unrivaled views from 100 North Main prevail. (Brad Vest/Special to the Daily Memphian)

If those south-facing offices were somehow turned into, say, apartments, the sight of the layered, gorgeous architecture of the Shrine Building, the Sterick Building, One Commerce Building and other towers would serve more like wall art as a window opening.

Coming with the purchase by the Downtown Mobility Authority was the entire, two-acre block on which the tower sits. Main, Adams, Second and Jefferson form the block. The property comprises the tower’s nine-level parking deck of about 400 spaces, an adjacent surface parking lot, and a row of historic buildings on Main built between 1890 and 1920.

The latest appraisal by CBRE counts 579,000 square feet of gross space, 429,000 of which is leasable, Roler said.

Despite all the interior destruction, Roler describes the property as “two acres of prime opportunity.”

“Within a five-minute walk of this there are 7.5 acres of surface parking lots … $428 million in property value, 1,200 people who live within a short walk, 713 hotel rooms,” he said.

Two blocks south is the newly renovated Renasant Convention Center. Two blocks west is the Mississippi River.

Left vacant, Roler said, “a building like this can harm the tax base and drive down property value. And it signals that disinvestment is OK, that we tolerate large vacant blight to go on. It discourages people from investing their hard-earned capital in our market.”

The request for proposals will ask questions about three areas, he said.

What is the developer’s experience in getting such projects completed and does the developer have the ability to attract capital and investors?

What is the developer’s vision for 100 North Main? The commission’s first goal is to save the tower. But if adaptive reuse is not proposed, what is the vision?

And what does the developer need to make the project a success? What public incentives, if any, are needed? And what would the developer pay for the property?

<strong>The 100 North Main Building is seen on a model of Downtown Memphis at the Downtown Memphis Commission offices on Sunday, May 30.</strong> (Brad Vest/Special to the Daily Memphian)
The 100 North Main Building is seen on a model of Downtown Memphis at the Downtown Memphis Commission offices on Sunday, May 30. (Brad Vest/Special to the Daily Memphian)

Memphis Redbirds Partner with Downtown Memphis Commission for Nacho Average Tuesday®

Fans at all Tuesday Games to Receive a Free Ballpark Nacho

MEMPHIS, Tennessee— This season, all fans in attendance at Tuesday Memphis Redbirds games will receive a free ballpark nacho as a part of Nacho Average Tuesday® presented by Downtown Memphis Commission. The Redbirds will launch Nacho Average Tuesday® at Opening Night on Tuesday, May 4.

“The Ballpark Nacho is a quintessential baseball food that we all have missed. After the overwhelming success of providing a free nacho to every fan during the 2019 Triple-A National Championship at AutoZone Park, on a Tuesday, we came up with the idea of Nacho Average Tuesday®,” Craig Unger, Redbirds President said. “Thanks to the Downtown Memphis Commission, we are excited to make it a regular feature for the 2021 season and provide a great value to our fans.”

Along with free ballpark nachos, fans will have the opportunity to upgrade to barbecue nachos, an AutoZone Park signature meal, for a small upcharge.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors into Downtown and sharing a safe fan experience this year as we cheer on our Redbirds! We see Nacho Average Tuesday® as the perfect way to treat the family, gather with coworkers or celebrate with friends. It is a great reminder that Downtown Memphis is ‘nacho average’ neighborhood!” Penelope Huston, Vice President Marketing, Downtown Memphis Commission said.

Under the current Health & Safety Protocols, AutoZone Park will be opening the gates to a limited number of fans for Redbirds games with six feet of social distancing between groups.

Fans wishing to secure their seats now for the biggest nights of the season, including Opening Night and Fourth of July, can do so with select 3-Game Packs. Visit memphisredbirds.com/miniplans to buy yours today!

Additional information regarding the Redbirds promotional schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.

Memphis Downtown development, The Walk, files permit to start construction on Union Avenue

Courtesy of the Commercial Appeal

Developer Kevin Adams has filed a building permit for construction on the first phase of his massive planned Downtown development known as “The Walk.”

Adams filed a permit April 8 for new construction of a seven-story mixed-use building with 414 apartment units and 20,000 square feet of retail space as well as a parking garage at 341 Union Ave.

The permit was filed the day after the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Design Review Board approved exterior plans for the first phase of the development, known as Building G. The plans were done by LRK Architects.

Developers of The Walk on Union released new renderings on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, for the development that had been called Union Row. This is a view of the Central Courtyard.

Board members praised the plans, which were unanimously approved, and said it was designed with pedestrians, not just residents and tenants, in mind.

The project formerly known as Union Row was renamed The Walk on Union and later The Walk as a nod to the developer’s intent to have it be walkable and enhance the Downtown pedestrian experience.

Building G will be bounded by Union on the north, Danny Thomas on the east, Gayoso on the south, and a new street to the west (referred to as Fifth Street) and will have a bus rapid transit stop on the side of the building fronting Union.

Rendering of The Walk's building at Fifth and Union in Downtown Memphis

The new parking garage will front Danny Thomas. The retail spaces will front Fifth while a two-story restaurant space at the northwest corner of the building will face Union.

Landscaping and streetscaping include street trees and planters along public streets, public seating and bike racks. The project also has three outdoor spaces in the first phase, intended to be used by residents and pedestrians.

Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development, soccer and COVID-19’s impact on hospitals for the Commercial Appeal. She can be reached via email at Corinne.Kennedy@CommercialAppeal.com or at 901-297-3245. 

Downtown’s Majestic Grille reopening next month

The large Downtown restaurant, Majestic Grille,  will reopen for dinner April 2, a month before celebrating its 15th anniversary. “It’s just time. We’re seeing offices start to come back. People want to go out. As soon as you get your vaccine it’s like, ‘OK, so what are we doing, where are we going?’” says Deni Reilly, owner of Majestic Grille.

By , Daily Memphian

First look: What we know about one of The Walk’s primary buildings in Downtown Memphis

The Downtown Memphis Commission’s Design Review Board gave approval for design plans for one of the primary buildings at The Walk, formerly Union Row, in Downtown Memphis. The board approved the plans at a virtual meeting Wednesday after a brief discussion.

The application is only for the exterior design of the one building, but it provides details about what the building will eventually house. Plans were done by LRK Architects.

Max Gersh-Memphis Commercial Appeal

2021 Projects Brings New Artists/Exhibition to Open on Main Activation

2021 Projects is continuing its pop-up concept in Downtown Memphis as part of the Downtown Memphis Commission’s award-winning Open on Main initiative. From February 23 to March 19, the space at 55 S. Main will be home to Memorandum, a joint exhibition featuring Khara Woods and Andrea Morales.

As part of the Open on Main initiative, the pop-up space at 55 S Main Street in Downtown Memphis has been transformed into a temporary gallery featuring the work of both established and up-and-coming artists from the greater Memphis region. The gallery opened earlier this year with a hybrid virtual and live exhibition by Nick and Cat Pena and will continue to show additional artists’ work through the end of June 2020.

The mission of 2021 Projects is to provide a Downtown exhibition space featuring rotating exhibitions by guest artists; the space will also serve as both exhibition and working space for artist Nelson Gutierrez. Over the six-month schedule, the gallery will host a series of virtual and physical exhibits, opening receptions, lectures, and artist talks to engage the community.

“The Downtown Memphis Commission’s Open on Main initiative made this series of exhibitions possible, ” said Nelson Gutierrez, gallery owner/curator. “Open on Main offered the opportunity to test the 2021 Projects concept in an important Downtown setting without much risk. It also allowed me to extend an invitation to other artists.”

Upcoming 2021 Projects schedule includes:
February 23 to March 19: Andrea Morales & Khara Woods

March 26 to April 23: Maritza Davila & Carl Moore

April 30 to May 28: Johana Moscoso & Scott Carter

June 4 to June 25: Nelson Gutierrez Retrospective Show

Learn More about 2021 Projects
Website www.2021projects.com
Instagram @2021projects
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/2021ProjectsContemporaryArt/

Other art-related Open on Main activations include Memphis Modern Market relocating to 65 Monroe from February-May 2021, and the continuation of Mary Ellen’s Kelly’s ArtChat series, which began as a part of her 2020 pop-up gallery and will continue in 2021.

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About Memorandum by Khara Woods and Andrea Morales:
Memorandum. “The shared desire to honor the sacred act of storytelling moves us in our respective mediums. Our work’s dimensionality ranges between 2D and 3D in form but is expansive in its intent. This show serves as a document of dialogue between two artists studying the way memory shapes our desire to create. 

Khara Woods is a graphic designer and artist from Memphis, Tennessee. The basis for all of Khara’s work starts with a network of horizontal and vertical lines in an underlying grid in the search for structure and order in the creative process. Since 2015, she has created and collaborated on a number of murals and public art projects in the city, including murals and a light installation at Cornelia Crenshaw Library in South City and a data visualization mural, “Basin Portraits” in Uptown. 

Andrea Morales is a documentary photographer and journalist born in Lima, Peru and raised in Miami, Florida now based in the U.S. South. Andrea hopes to use images of everyday life as a way of creating an emotional portal to our shared and oppositional rhythms. She is a producer at the Southern Documentary Project and the visuals director at MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.”

About Nelson Gutierrez, Resident Artist, Curator & Director, and 2021 Projects:
Nelson’s work explores the psychological and social implications of conflict. Most of his work is composed of two and three-dimensional pieces, conceptual objects, and installations that reflect current sociopolitical issues. Nelson received his B.A. from the Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Bogota, Colombia, and his M.A. from the Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, England.
http://nelsongutierrez.com/ Associate & Advising Artist: Carl E Moore https://carlemoore.com/

2021 Projects is a contemporary art space offering a snapshot of Memphis’ most compelling contemporary artists. This is an artist-run initiative led by Nelson Gutierrez and contributor Carl Moore. The art space will offer a different exhibit highlighting two artists at a time on a monthly basis through the month of June. For more information go to www.2021Projects.com

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New Downtown Memphis restaurant Sugar Grits proves grits aren’t just for breakfast

The Commercial Appeal. January 19, 2021. Sugar Grits opened Tuesday at 150 Peabody Place, Suite 111 in Downtown Memphis in the space that was most recently Sleep Out Louie’s. The new restaurant will serve grits all day — featuring the ingredient in breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items.

Sugar Grits is an original concept designed by Stephanie and Tony Westmoreland. The couple are partners in Memphis-based Tandem Restaurant Partners. This is the second original concept for the restaurant group known for saving Memphis institutions like Zinnie’s and Robilio’s Sidecar Café. Their first original concept, Ben Yay’s Gumbo Shop, opened in August.