MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Developers are bringing life into an empty warehouse that's been vacant for 20 years. The Sears Crosstown Building is the gateway to north Memphis and sits in midtown Memphis. It will cost $175 million to renovate, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Church Health Center are among those pitching in to fund it. Developers are asking for the city's help as well.
The non-profit group Crosstown Arts is leading the change. Developers want to transform the Sears Crosstown building into a hub for education, health, and arts. There are plans to have a high school inside, arts program, apartments, all while creating 1,300 jobs. Mayor A C Wharton supports funding the project and people in the neighborhood couldn't be happier.
If Memphis has a monument for blight this would be it. The towering building has 1.5 million square feet of broken windows and empty space, but Crosstown Arts wants to change that.
“The vision is this vertical urban neighborhood that is grounded in arts, education, and health care,” said Crosstown Arts co-leader, Todd Richardson.
There are 8 founding partners on board to make that vision a reality. They include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ALSAC, Methodist, Le Bonheur, Church Health Center, Rhodes College, Gestalt Community Schools, and Memphis Teacher Residency. Developers are also asking the city for help. They want $15 million to help pay for infrastructure and blight removal. Councilman Lee Harris supports funding the project.
"We give a little, $15 million, but we get at least $160 million in direct private investment and that has an effect that’ll create jobs, create construction jobs, long term jobs, and so forth so it’s a slam dunk project,” said Councilman Harris.
Neighbors are looking forward for some positive change.
"I'm very excited about the possibility of what they're looking to do, the different medical industry, and the schools, and the housing,” said neighbor Becky Anderson. “I think it's going to be a great benefit for our neighborhood."
Glitter and Glamour women's store has sat across the street from Sears Crosstown for the past 25 years. The owner says once renovations happen, businesses will come back.
"Hopefully they renovate it and make it a little prettier than what it is right now so we're very excited about that,” said the store's owner, Henry Moshref.
Residents are excited too.
"I think the property values are going to go up too, it's going to bring the neighborhood back even more so, I'm excited. I can't wait for 2016 to get here and start it and get going,” said Anderson.
City council will have to approve any funding sometime next month. Renovations of the Sears Crosstown building are set to be complete in 2016.