For half a century, a 1.3-million-square-foot Sears Distribution Center was the economic engine of Memphis, Tenn. But after shuttering its doors in 1983, the abandoned warehouse sat vacant for 25 years, deteriorating into an eyesore.
The massive structure was deemed too expensive to tear down, so a number of local arts, health-care, education, and nonprofit groups came together to conceptualize a project that would both revive the building and revitalize the community.
The team at local architecture firm Looney Ricks Kiss transformed the building into what the company describes as a “vertical mixed-use urban village,” complete with retail, restaurants, fitness, health facilities, educational and arts venues, and professional spaces in addition to 265 apartment units.
The design elements and architectural details of the project pay homage to the building’s industrial past. In the residential units, which are collectively named the Parcels at Concourse and are situated on the seventh through 10th floors, exposed-brick walls, concrete floors, and original building materials were repurposed as part of the interior aesthetic.
“Significant design focus was exerted on effectively infusing light throughout the deep floor plates—even interior-facing units are filled with sunlight,” says the firm, which was able to design light-filled units through a series of cleverly placed light-well and atrium insertions.
Crosstown Concourse is designed to house “people on the forefront of transforming Memphis: urban educators, health-care scientists and researchers, artists,” says the firm. Therefore, the development is focused on fostering engagement among the residents and within the community—a central atrium is a hub of activity and a host space for community events, such as fashion shows, nonprofit fundraisers, and live music and art performances.
The units are intentionally designed to share infrastructure with and layer horizontally over the arts, education, health, and wellness components below—some units overlook the atrium space—in hopes that the layout will inspire spontaneous interaction between the diverse mix of residents.
The project features an 8,000-square-foot, free, public art gallery, which exhibits 10 shows annually, along with 25 artist studios, and currently has a 450-seat black box theater under construction on-site.
The project places a heavy emphasis on health and wellness, fitness, and nutrition, offering a farm-to-table organic grocery store, teaching kitchen, 20,000-square foot YMCA fitness center, and community garden.
Two former loading docks were transformed into retail space that are occupied by a juice bar, a coffee shop and roastery, and a bakery that employs individuals from a nearby homeless shelter. Plus, there’s a food hall that helps immigrants assimilate into the community. The LEED Platinum property has 100% of its electricity offset by renewable sources.
In addition to winning a Grand Award, Crosstown Concourse was honored with MFE's Editors' Choice award for the most outstanding overall project in this year's competition.