Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
Sears Crosstown Project
Crosstown Collaborate – an update from April Simmons, Crosstown Development Team
February 26, 2013
Building on three of Memphis’ strongest community assets—arts, education, and healthcare—the historic Sears Crosstown building is being preserved and redeveloped as a mixed-used vertical urban village – a purposeful collective of uses and partners. People will be living and working, learning and teaching, healing and growing well, creating and recreating, shopping and eating here – like a really great neighborhood.
When the Sears Crosstown building was constructed in the late 1920s, it was considered to be almost unreasonably distant from the city center; by the late 1970s, Memphis’ population and purchasing power had migrated far past it into the suburbs of eastern Shelby County. Sears closed its retail operations at the Crosstown building in the early 1980s and abandoned the building entirely in 1993. Cleveland Street, the main corridor in Crosstown, went from a vibrant hub of activity that was the literal intersection of the city to a strip of boarded up and empty storefronts. A Memphis neighborhood at the nexus of Midtown, Downtown, and the Medical District became largely abandoned. The Sears Crosstown building itself was sadly transformed from a beloved symbol of commerce, interaction, and economic mobility into one the most prominent and pernicious examples of blight in the city.
We now have the opportunity to change that. Eight Founding Partners – local organizations from the healthcare, education, and arts sectors – have indicated their collective commitment to inhabit over 600,000 square feet of the historic building. ALSAC, Church Health Center, Crosstown Arts, Gestalt Community Schools, Methodist Healthcare, Memphis Teacher Residency, Rhodes College, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will anchor a landmark effort to redevelop the facility into one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the state’s history.
A dense, active, and peopled Sears will serve as an anchor and catalyst to revitalization and economic development in the surrounding Crosstown neighborhood. In turn, a newly vibrant Crosstown, located at the nexus of Midtown, Downtown and the Medical District, will provide cohesion for the center city region.
If you believe in the vision for a renovated Sears Crosstown building and a revived Crosstown neighborhood, please join the Crosstown Collaborative at CrosstownCollaborative.com and show your support. Let us know we can count on your help to bring this exciting new community concept to life.
A note from Dr. G. Scott Morris, Church Health Center:
If you are half as elated as I am about the Sears Crosstown development project, then I’m confident we’ll discover a lot of joy around Memphis over the next several years. This is an ambitious project. It will take time and money to accomplish, but, even more, it will take relationships. The nine founding partners know the Vollintine Evergreen community will be essential to the success of our vision.
The Church Health Center will be able to serve more people more efficiently once we bring all the parts of our work together in one place. I’m confident that we’ll also discover a greater sense of community among our employees and volunteers. As we get to know our new neighbors, we’ll be enriched by the sense of community that already exists among people who live in the Vollintine Evergreen area.
Let me thank you now, right at the start, for a sense of partnership in making Memphis a city that cares about the quality of people’s lives. As the Sears Crosstown project unfolds, you will contribute to the social, service, and creative connections that help people stay vibrant and energized. I anticipate great things ahead as we get to know each other.
Founder and executive director of the Church Health Center
August 21, 2012
A Note from Todd Richardson, Crosstown Development Project:
Since early 2010, a development group has been quietly meeting in the basement of a Crosstown office space to create a vision for the adaptive reuse of the historic Sears Crosstown Retail and Distribution Center. Built in 1927 as one of ten distribution centers in the United States, and one of seven that survive, Sears Crosstown is a monolithic relic of America’s early twentieth-century industrial economy. For decades, it was the centerpiece of a vibrant middle class urban neighborhood. Abandoned now for twenty years, it has become one of the city’s most notorious blight nuisances. Yet, even today, almost everyone in Memphis knows someone who once worked or shopped there.
After years of hard work and planning, the development team recently announced that nine notable arts, education, and healthcare organizations have committed to help create a unique “vertical urban village” within the building that will bring it and the Crosstown area back to life. Rather than taking a standard anchor-tenant approach to create an office park that is active only during the daytime, the development team sought from the beginning to develop a more mixed-use environment where people are coming and going 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Additionally, the idea was to recruit neighborhood-scale uses that would go far beyond simply co-locating; rather, they would share mission and vision, and therefore be excited about sharing space and resources.
The Crosstown Development project will be anchored by a collective of Memphis’ most well-respected organizations and institutions: ALSAC/St. Jude, Church Health Center, Crosstown Arts, Gestalt Community Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, Methodist Healthcare, Rhodes College, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and The West Clinic. In addition to these nine “Founding Partners”, plans include first floor retail, restaurant and production space, a diverse range of residential opportunities, a public plaza, and community garden.
As the project progresses, the Crosstown development team looks forward to talking more with neighbors in the surrounding areas through community planning and information meetings. More to come soon!
Todd Richardson is assistant professor at the University of Memphis, co-director of Crosstown Arts, and project leader for the Crosstown redevelopment project. He holds advanced degrees from Memphis Theological Seminary and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and earned a Ph.D. in Art History from Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands, in 2007. His most recent book, Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Art Discourse in the Sixteenth-Century Netherlands, was published by Ashgate Publishers in 2011.
Contact Todd Richardson at email@example.com.
A Note from the V&E Greenline Committee:
The recent Commercial Appeal article on the proposed development of the Sears building suggests it will affect VECA and especially the west end of the V&E Greenline.
The extensive and informative article was written by VECA resident Tom Bailey. It has photos and comments from Chris Miner, a VECA resident and co-director of Crosstown Arts, William Troutt, President of Rhodes, and Russ Wigginton, Vice President for External Programs, Rhodes.
V&E Greenline Committee