Architect: Looney Ricks Kiss, DIALOG, Spatial Affairs Bureau
Owner: Crosstown LLC
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Reviving a retail distribution center that had stood abandoned since the early 1980s, this 1.3 million-square-foot vertical urban village in Memphis has transformed urban blight into a vibrant community. More than just the rebirth of a building, Crosstown Concourse has uplifted an entire neighborhood and given the city a glimpse of its possible future.
Originally envisioned as the home for a small startup company with plans to organically revive the building in the coming decades, the ultimate vision for the mammoth building grew out of a six-month feasibility study that involved hundreds of meetings with neighbors, civic leaders, and institutions, all of which were invited to share their ideas.
Filled to the brim with historical context, and driven by the ideals of social transformation and collective well-being, Crosstown Concourse opened in August 2017 and achieved full occupancy in less than one year. The many services it offers include a 400-student charter high school, 20,000-square-foot YMCA fitness center, 450-seat black box theater, free art gallery, radio station, and the nation’s largest private dental clinic. In addition, nearly 300 apartments provide housing for participants in arts, education, and medical residency programs.
The $200 million project revolves around three main atria. The 10-story central atrium easily transitions between its everyday spectacularity to serving as a subtle backdrop for large and small gatherings. A weathering steel theater stair gives way to a concrete stage of sorts, offering a platform for civic events and comfortable seating.
Crafted as a vertical column of light punctuated by a fluorescent red stair, the east atrium echoes the eight-story package chutes that were vital to the building during its retail heyday. To the west, residential floors feature a patterned solid and void atrium wall composition that demonstrates the private nature of the space. The transparent commercial floors below emphasize openness and collaboration.
Applications by the architects for historic tax credits helped salvage an adjacent parking garage from demolition. Built in 1965, the garage’s diamond and rectilinear façade panels testify to the mid-century modern design aesthetic and allow the structure to serve as the site’s lantern after dark.