“Between the World Wars, Sears built 10 giant centers around the country. The one-to-three million square foot fortresses served as department store, regional office and fulfillment center for the catalog business. As Sears’ business dwindled in the early 1990s, the centers were closed. Most sat idle for years….The one in Memphis turned into the most interesting adapted use project in America.” writes
Tom Vander Ark for Forbes.
The 1.5 million-square-foot Sears building in Memphis was bought by Staley Cates in 2007, for only three million dollars. But it wasn’t until 2010, when Cates together with art history professor Todd Richardson and video artist Christopher Miner formed Crosstown Arts, that a vision was born.
The idea of an arts center germinated. Crosstown arts worked on feasibility plans by day and held arts events by night. It soon became clear that funding for such an enormous project would have to come from multiple sources, including pre-leasing most of the building. As community interest grew, so was the vision transformed into a vertical urban village to include art and cultural venues as well as residences, restaurants, health and education.
Eight organizations leased space in the building over the next couple of years and funding came from thirty different sources. Construction began in 2015 and by August 2017, 13,000 people came to celebrate the grand opening to live music and dance performances.
Today Crosstown Concourse boasts 265 residential apartments, health services, a high school and even eight short-term rentals units. Crosstown Arts resides on the second floor and operates music spaces, art galleries, a cafe and bar, an artist residency program, a facility for making art and a 420-seat theater. Live music performances, lunchtime speakers and art prominently displayed is the norm.
This is a brilliant example of how public / private partnerships can work together to transform vacancy and blight into amazing community assets.
Read the original article here.
Sears building in Memphis by Thomas R. Machnitzki licensed CC0 BY 3.0, modified.