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Eyesore No More

Four buildings previously deemed ugly by the Memphis Flyer are seeing new life.

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Businesses may come and go, but in 2005 and 2009, the Flyer ran two stories about the gone — 21 abandoned, dilapidated, or just ugly buildings that were a blemish on the areas around them.

Among those were Clayborn Temple, the Ambassador Hotel, and Celebration Station. Some of the structures have since been demolished, but a handful have been redeveloped or have renovations coming soon. Here's an update on four of the 21 Flyer "eyesores."

DUSTIN AZLIN
  • Dustin Azlin

Chicago Pizza Factory, 2059 Madison — Now Chiwawa

In the early 1980s, the once-bustling Overton Square saw a decline in activity after Beale Street reopened. The Chicago Pizza Factory closed in 1989 after 17 years under Jerry Caruthers, the owner of the property. The building stood unoccupied for 22 years.

In 2011, the Memphis City Council approved a redevelopment proposal for Overton Square. The following year, entrepreneur Taylor Berger, of YoLo frozen yogurt fame, and partners announced plans to open Chiwawa, offering Mexican food and hot dogs, at the location.

ALEXANDRA PUSATERI
  • Alexandra Pusateri

"Honestly, I've been looking at that building since I was a kid," Berger told The Commercial Appeal in 2012.

The architects redesigned the old Chicago arch sign to feature "Midtown is Memphis" with accompanying lights on the expanded patio.

Sears Crosstown Building, 495 N. Watkins — Now Crosstown Memphis

Sears, Roebuck, & Co. built its 1.4-million-square-foot landmark in 1927 as a shopping hub and warehouse. The giant building had been empty since the 1990s, after the Sears catalog distribution center closed.

In 2012, plans to turn the space into a "vertical urban village" were announced. Eight health-care, education, and art organizations have committed to the location.

For the past couple years, Crosstown Arts has held public events on the building's ground floor. Last weekend, the building closed so renovations can begin, although the $175 million redevelopment project is still awaiting a $15 million commitment from the city.

The Crosstown Development Project plans to have the location open by 2016 after 24 months of construction.

Prince Mongo's Planet, 56 S. Front — Now Memphis in May Headquarters

The property at 56 S. Front became vacant after the closing of Prince Mongo's Planet, a bar opened by Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges. After it was shut down for nonpayment of taxes in 1995, the property was slated for two other prospects before the Memphis in May organization purchased it in 2011.

After plans for a boutique hotel fell through, the property dropped in price during the recession, according to Jim Holt, the president and CEO of Memphis in May International.

"We had been looking for years for a permanent office in the downtown core," Holt said. "It was a chance for us to eliminate a long-term blight."

Lowenstein/Rhodes-Jennings Building, 66 N. Main — Now Servicemaster by Stratos

The 1920s were a busy time for 66 N. Main, which classic department store Lowenstein's and furniture company Rhodes-Jennings occupied during the decade. By mid-2005, when the building made the Flyer's eyesore list, the Lowenstein was beyond decay.

The Lowenstein was renovated in 2009 after Court Square Center was chosen by the Downtown Memphis Commission to redevelop the building. Luxury apartments, office space, and anchor tenant Servicemaster by Stratos now occupy the Lowenstein.

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