A Crosstown Update

MTR recently received an update on the Crosstown project and Groundbreaking Announcement that we are excited to share! The renewal of the Sears Crosstown building has long been a dream for many in our city. In 2017, a portion of this huge building will house our new home, along with 14 other organizations plus other small businesses. Below is an email from the directors of the project. Read on to learn more about the progress of the construction and the Groundbreaking Ceremony on February 21, 2015.


Dear Crosstown Community,

Over five years ago, the Crosstown development team began what was considered to be an improbable journey to restore and redevelop one of the largest abandoned buildings in Tennessee.  It’s one of those cliche, underdog stories of passion and conviction confronted by skeptical snickers, laughter, and the predictable response: “you want to do what?!  In Memphis?  Yeah, good luck with that.”  Despite the building’s beloved history, prime location and iconic status, no one believed it could ever be redeveloped, much less transformed from debilitating blight into a community asset.  Admittedly, their doubt was not unfounded and probability was on their side.

Yet, here we all are five years later — on December 29, we closed financing on the Crosstown Project.  Our general contractor, Grinder Taber Grinder, was given a notice to proceed the next day, and we’ve now shifted from demolition work to the construction phase.  Thanks to an enormous amount of work by our design and development team, attorneys, Suntrust Bank, the City of Memphis, as well as your steadfast vision and commitment, miracle has been stacked upon miracle to create the most unlikeliest of milestones.  And the unlikely milestone is the most miraculous part — a one million square foot former distribution center in a severely disinvested area, where the poverty rate extends beyond 20% and unemployment is double the city’s average, will be resurrected not as an office complex, industrial park or sports arena, but as a mixed-use, vertical urban village that brings some of the city’s greatest resources in arts, education and healthcare to a community that needs them most.  A structure that is now completely empty and a detriment to the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses will be repopulated with 3000 people everyday who are going to work, to learn, to shop, to eat, to live, to create, and to heal.  Equally spectacular, this restoration is not the result of a single person or developer; it’s the product of a team of civic-minded individuals who love their city and joined forces with fifteen well-respected, local organizations that believe in the vision and want to be active participants in the new community.

Of course, none of this is possible without all of you and the hard work you have expended over the last few years.  As a result, impossible, jaw-dropping aspirations were achieved in 2014: 1) over 450,000 square feet of commercial space has been leased for a building that is still two years from opening; 2) $200 million in philanthropic, private, and public funding was secured to complete the project, including over $50 million in historic and new markets tax credits; 3) 38% of the apartments were pre-leased; 4) design and construction documents were fully completed and bids came in on budget (and our goal of awarding 25% of the work to certified minority and women owned businesses has been exceeded); and 5) hundreds of new construction jobs were created and economic regeneration in the area is already starting to occur.

This email started out as a simple update to inform everyone about financial closing, but as we considered it more, it felt appropriate to also remind us all of the genuine miracle that we are witnessing and the magnitude of the real estate and community development we are now embarking upon.  We use “embark” because, as we all know, this is just the beginning and not the end.  Much work, planning and implementation is still to be done.  As we’ve always communicated, success for us is not financial closing or even opening day — success is ten years from now when the building is still vibrant and all our tenants want to renew their leases.

All that said, this is a monumental moment worthy of being memorialized.  Here are the details for how we would like to celebrate with all of you and the Memphis community.


On February 21, 1927, Sears, Roebuck & Co. executives came to Memphis to break ground on what would become their seventh retail and distribution center (of ten built across the country).  88 years later — on Saturday, Feb 21, 2015 — we will break new ground for the Crosstown redevelopment.  Please plan to join us from 11:00-2:00 for the ceremony, which will include presentations, the launch of our new branding, exhibitions (including new renderings), an iron pour using old radiators from the building, live music, food, and much more.

We sincerely hope you, your staff, and your families will be able to join us on Feb 21st for the festivities to mark this exciting new chapter of our journey together.

Thanks again and all the best for a banner 2015!

Todd Richardson & McLean Wilson