View Single Post
Old Posted Jan 30, 2010, 10:04 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1,942
Residential, business life poised to return to The Washburn
The Commercial Appeal | By Wayne Risher

The Washburn, a landmark building under renovation at 60 S. Main, offers front-row seats to Memphis history along with classic architectural touches. The building's $7.8 million conversion into 42 apartments and 4,500 square feet of commercial space should be completed by Feb.1, developer Andrew Crosby said. "I think it's the prettiest building on Main Street," says Andrew Crosby of The Washburn's Romanesque architectural influences. Built in the 1880s in two parts as the Lemmon and Gale buildings, and more recently known as the Lawrence Building, the five-story edifice overlooks Downtown alleys associated with momentous events of the 19th and 20th centuries. Washburn's Escape Alley runs along the building's north side, separating it from the SunTrust Bank building, and November 6th Street is to the east. "I was looking for something historic, and it's a very interesting story," Crosby said. "I think it's the prettiest building on Main Street."

Downtown Developers LLC bought the building for $635,000 in 2003 with the idea of preserving a piece of history and getting in on the Downtown residential boom, said Crosby, general partner. Crosby weighed the options and went with apartments, a fortunate choice given tumbling demand for condos and other owner-occupied housing after the recession hit. Naylor Construction began renovation last December, gutting an interior that included rickety wood stairs and a massive freight elevator. The design by architect Jeff Blackledge retained ceilings as high as 18 feet, a rooftop skylight and exposed timbers.Crosby said apartments have been built to facilitate easy conversion to condominiums after five years.

The previous owner, National Bank of Commerce, used it for records storage. Crosby said a two-ton, 100-year-old Diebold safe is being restored at the National Ornamental Metal Museum for the apartment lobby.Preservation of the Main Street faade and other architectural details qualified the project for historic preservation tax credits. Crye-Leike Realtors is preleasing apartments in The Washburn. Crosby said Wilkes & McHugh, a law firm, has leased most of the first-floor commercial, and discussions are under way with an investment firm about the rest.Crosby recently won Center City Development Corp. approval to divert fees from the project's tax freeze toward about $83,000 in improvements to the city-owned alleys, including curbs, gutters, sidewalks and lighting.

Union Gen. Cadwallader Colden Washburn fled through the alley that bears his name, wearing only his nightshirt, when Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry raided Union-occupied Downtown on Aug. 21, 1864. Washburn was commander of the military district of Western Tennessee. The past and future Wisconsin congressman went on after the war to cofound General Mills and serve as governor of the Badger State.

November 6th Street commemorates a 1934 vote to bring Tennessee Valley Authority electricity to the city through a publicly owned electric utility. "Memphis: An Architectural Guide" lists 60 S. Main as "one of several good commercial Romanesque buildings in town." Similar to, but plainer than the Lowenstein Building at Jefferson and Main, the building is topped by "a bit of fortress architecture unexpectedly erupting on Main Street." "The building is a really fine example of our treasure of historical buildings Downtown," said Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford. "The restoration that is under way is doing justice to its historic value." The preleasing of commercial space is a big plus. "Renting ground-floor retail space is difficult anywhere in the city, but with a very substantial vacancy rate along the (Main Street) mall, this is very welcome news, particularly in this economy," Sanford added. Crosby, 38, is a Memphis University School and Furman University graduate with a degree in philosophy. He worked for CNN, founded a public relations firm in Washington and operates a contracting business that builds for the State Department and U.S. embassies abroad. Crosby and Huey Holden are partners in Downtown Developers LLC. Limited liability investors are Culti Partners LLC and Florence McGowan.

Last edited by Johnny Ryall; Nov 30, 2015 at 1:45 AM.
Reply With Quote