The $261 million makeover of the tallest tower in Memphis is officially underway.
In a Thursday, Nov. 30, event held at the Downtown skyscraper, ground was ceremonially broken on the project to reinvent and reimagine the 100 N. Main Building.
In attendance were 100 N. Main Development Partners’ leadership, City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland; Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) CEO and Memphis Mayor-elect Paul Young, and half a dozen other representatives of entities that have become a part of the project over the years.
100 N. Main Development Partners head Kevin Woods praised those who have helped get the renovation in motion, from politicians and incentive board members to contractors.
“Now with investments being made with 100 N. Main, we know what’s possible in Memphis,” Woods said. “We thank you all … who are continuing to make this a better place to live.”
Of the many groups involved in the 100 N. Main project, one of them is a former rival and finalist for the bid to redevelop the tower, Kansas City-based Sunflower Development Group. Sunflower’s bid included many of the same uses that 100 N. Main Development Partners proposed. The primary head of that bid, Aaron Mesmer, EVP of development at Block Real Estate Services, was in attendance at the ceremony today.
Brett Roler, the DMC’s SVP of planning and development, was credited with being instrumental in the 100 N. Main project reaching this point. Woods said that Roler has likely climbed the stairs of the building more than anybody, and Mesmer noted that Roler was the one who helped Sunflower rejoin the project after Woods’ group was selected.
“[Roler] called us and said, ‘Hey, you guys might still have a role in this to play yet, just wait and see how this evolves,'” Mesmer said. “We were introduced to [Woods] and Billy [Orgel] and their team, and over the past couple of years started to build that relationship. That was really critical for us. We found out in that process that we were really compatible.”
While a full development agreement for 100 N. Main hasn’t been reached yet, Strickland gave a significant boost to the project by announcing the City has signed a deal for office space in the completed tower. The 15-year lease will see the City government occupy 60,000 square feet in 100 N. Main.
“I’m old enough, so I can say this. I remember going to 100 N. Main. Lawyers, offices, businesses, restaurants — it was a beehive of activity,” Strickland said. “Now, the next generation will have the opportunity to experience the same thing and more.
Strickland added that the office space there will “bring employees [from] where we lease space all throughout the city, who are not [Downtown], to now be within walking distance of City Hall.”
The 100 N. Main groundbreaking also signaled a final victory for Young at the DMC. He will step out of that role at the end of the year to become mayor on Jan. 1. Young said that projects like 100 N. Main are important for Memphis’ progress and character.
“We are standing in front of the tallest building in Memphis, and when you talk about real estate development, it’s very difficult to make a project like this work,” Young said. “It is much, much easier to tear this building down and offer a vacant lot up for development, and we would see a nice six- or seven-story building come in this place. You wouldn’t see a 37-story tower come in its place. I’m personally excited to see this history preserved. This is what brings the character, the vibe to our city. It’s important that you all understand that is what’s happening today.”
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