In recognition for its landmark transformation and benefit to the local community, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, Tennessee as one of only three winners of the 2018 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Awards. This prestigious award was announced during this year’s PassForward conference held in San Francisco, CA on October 15th, 2018.
The Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Awards are the most sought after of all the National Trust awards. They are given to exemplary individuals, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies whose skill and determination have given new meaning to communities by preserving their architectural and cultural heritage.
A Tennessee Landmark
The 1.5 million-square-foot Sears, Roebuck and Co. warehouse and distribution center was originally opened in 1927 to connect communities in rural parts of Tennessee to affordable retail stores. As one of ten nationwide distribution centers at the time, the Crosstown facility was one of the last three catalog centers to be open prior to the Great Depression.
By the end of World War II, the demographics and residential growth of Memphis that originally attracted Sears to the area had shifted and forced the site to close its ground floor retail spaces. The catalog distribution center remained in use until 1993 when Sears discontinued all catalog sales, forcing the site to close. In 2011, Memphis Heritage, Inc. identified the Sears Crosstown building as one of the most endangered historic buildings in the state.
After a three-year restoration process, Crosstown Concourse was revitalized with a new community-serving purpose. Thanks to the vision of nonprofit Crosstown Arts, in partnership with Kemmons Wilson Companies and a group of community stakeholders and founding tenants with roots in arts, education, and healthcare, the new Crosstown Concourse has emerged as a mixed-use, “vertical urban village.”
Honored Adaptive Reuse
Through the use of $34.6 million in federal Historic Tax Credits and $51 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocation, $5 million of which was provided by NTCIC, the site reopened on August 18, 2017–the building’s 90th birthday. Crosstown Concourse now contains 269 residential mixed-income housing units and commercial, retail, education and healthcare space. Tenants include a charter high school for arts and sciences, a teacher residency/graduate urban education program, a wellness and fitness center, primary and urgent healthcare clinics, contemporary art exhibition space, shared art-making facilities, a comprehensive cancer treatment center, and a retail mix that includes a fresh market, pharmacy and restaurants.
“Once abandoned and listed as one of Tennessee’s most endangered historic places, the exciting transformation of Crosstown Concourse into a vibrant community landmark is one of the most remarkable preservation success stories in our state in years,” said E. Patrick McIntyre, Jr., executive director and state historic preservation officer of the Tennessee Historical Commission. “The large scale and layout of the building makes it possible to serve a wide variety of creative uses.”
The Driehaus Awards recognize efforts such as citizens saving and maintaining important landmarks, companies and craftsmen restoring the richness of the past, public officials supporting preservation projects and legislation in their communities, and educators and journalists helping Americans understand the value of preservation.