‘One of the most depressing things is how fast it fell into disrepair’: A look inside the downtown Memphis building everyone wants to save

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new effort is underway to save the city’s tallest building and remove an eyesore from the north end of Main Street.

The Downtown Memphis Commission, in partnership with the Downtown Mobility Authority and the City of Memphis, has issued a request for proposal to try and find a developer to breathe new life into the old 37-story office tower at 100 North Main.

“When we talk about developing 100 North Main, it’s more than just the tall office tower,” said Brett Roler, Vice President of Planning and Development for the Downtown Memphis Commission. “The 37-story tower that’s the most iconic part but the site is actually two full acres.

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Lobby of 100 N.Main

Tuesday, Roler gave WREG a rare look inside the 56-year-old building that has been vacant and fenced off since 2015.

“One of most depressing things about this building is how fast it fell into disrepair,” said Roler.

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The building has been damaged by vagrants and vandals and is now used by the Shelby County SWAT team for training. Walking through what used to be a bank on the first floor, though, Roler imagined what it could be once again.

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First floor of 100 N. Main

“I could see a restaurant here. A restaurant like Catherine and Mary’s with a nice tall ceiling and columns. It could be an event space, a wedding venue.  It could be an office again.”

In March, the DMC and DMA purchased the property, including four historic buildings and a parking lot next door, through a Pilot Extension Fund. Roler said with the completion of the Renasant Convention Center, now is the time to tackle the project.

View from inside 100 N. Main

“We as a community just invested a coupled hundred million dollars is making a really great Renasant Convention Center, and I would suggest that when tourists are back and visiting the convention center and are coming to downtown, they are going to want to walk by this building, probably twice every day, and imagine what that would do to their impressions of Memphis and their memory of Memphis. Their feeling of Memphis,” said Roler.

Roler said it would cost up to $10 million to tear down the 430-foot tall building and at least $150 million to renovate the site.

“It could be an office building, it could be all apartments, it could be part apartments and part hotel,” said Roler. “We really want to see the developer’s vision for activating not just the historic tower building but all two acres of the property.”

Four historic buildings that come with 100 N. Main Property

Roler says within a five-minute walk of 100 North Main, there is $450 million worth of property value. He said the building in its current condition is dragging down property values and hurting the tax base.

The DMC and DMA will accept proposals from potential developers through the end of August and hope to choose a finalist by the end of the year.

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