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J. Crews' Style

How 32-year-old native Memphian Jason Crews developed Riverside 648, one of the most dynamic and successful condos in the city.

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His dad is Hilliard Crews, founder and CEO of Shelby Group International, founder of Crews Realty, developer of residential and commercial property, and a University of Memphis graduate and member of the Tiger Athletic Advisory Board of Directors. His uncle is Lauren Crews, another prominent Memphis developer. So maybe it shouldn't be surprising that Crews-scion Jason, the developer of Riverside 648 and multiple residential and commercial properties across the Mid-South, should be so successful. But the accomplishments of this 32-year-old Briarcrest High School and University of Memphis graduate are making a lot of people in Memphis crane their necks to get a glimpse.

What people are stretching to see isn't just the man but his building: Riverside 648, perched atop South Bluffs and looking out over the Mississippi River like a conquering general. Of course, Riverside 648 wasn't always, well, Riverside 648. A few years ago it was the home of Memphis Import Co.

"We've always gone downtown, always loved downtown," Crews says. "My uncle [Lauren] found that property and presented it to me. I really liked it and thought it would be a great and fun project."

Jason Crews bought the property in 2003. The two-story building was 74,000 square feet -- 15,000 of it office space, the rest warehouse space used as an import-distribution center. The

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transformation to condominiums would be startling. Construction started in January 2005. "The existing first floor we turned into a garage," Crews explains. "The second floor, which was warehouse and offices, we turned into condos. Then we built condos on the top floor and the roof." (Those top two floors were new for the building.) Next were exterior improvements, Crews says. "Outside [the building] and the property itself needed to be cleaned up a whole lot to improve the look of the neighborhood."

When the condo opened in May 2006, it featured 66 units. Now, nine months later, there are 20 units remaining that run in price from $171,500 to $449,500 with sizes ranging from one-bedroom units at about 1,040 square feet to three-bedroom units at about 2,200 square feet, according to sales agent Tom Davis of Henry Turley Realtors. "We're on target with sales and looking to sell out the building by the middle of summer," Davis says. "I sold four units in January. We thought that was pretty good."

"Buyers are coming from all over," Crews says. "We have all types of buyers, a very diverse mix. We're getting a lot of people from out of town relocating to Memphis or their jobs are downtown and they want to live there too. Some of the buyers are buying for a second home -- they might live out in Collierville or Germantown. Some of them are first-home buyers.

"We have people from 25 to 65 years old living in one community. We knew it'd be diverse, but we didn't know it'd be this diverse."

Davis echoes the sentiment: "It's almost unbelievable to see all these different people living in this one environment. It's such a mix of people, but they're all there at one time. Riverside 648 has been hugely successful and is a perfect example of a mix of all that's happening with downtown. It makes for a great environment."

Riverside 648: from warehouse to condos
  • Riverside 648: from warehouse to condos

The development has a lot of amenities and natural advantages that are making it very attractive to prospective buyers. Its location at Riverside Drive and West Georgia Avenue gives it easy access to the interstate and, thus, East Memphis, Bill Morris Parkway, and the suburbs. Included in the condo package is covered, reserved parking in the garage. Residents with two- or three-bedroom units get a second reserved, outside parking place. They don't skimp on the parking spots either: They're all oversized so they can accommodate large SUVs. The units are large and open, with ceilings up to 14 feet and nine-foot-high windows. Every unit has a balcony, gas-top stoves, hardwood floors, granite counters in kitchens and bathrooms, and stainless-steel appliances. There's also a large fitness room and a rooftop deck with gas grills, a kitchenette area, tables, lounge chairs, a restroom -- and don't forget the view. A lobby with a pool table greets residents as they enter.

Crews is excited about the future prospects for downtown condominium development, including the continued selling of Riverside 648.

"I think a lot of people think there are a lot of condos downtown, but there really are not," Crews says. "There are just a lot of them proposed. Also, what's different about downtown than out in the suburbs is that every project downtown is totally different. My condo project is different from every other developer's. The guy down the street might have town homes; another guy might have a high rise; mine's kind of a mid-rise. If they were all the same price and same product, I'd be worried. But I think this is going to be a really big year."

Davis sings the praises of Crews at the mention of his name: "He's been great to work with. We've given each other some of the best of what we both know.

"None of this is easy because there are lots of pieces of the puzzle," Davis continues. "But it's been a really successful project. We're just hoping we can do another one and be as successful."

Crews doesn't just have his hand in downtown Memphis. He's developed residential subdivisions in Olive Branch, Collierville, and Fayette County and commercial properties throughout the Mid-South. Asked what he likes about developing, he says, "I like to get out of the office and meet people and be outdoors and the challenges. I like building."

Jason Crews: Coming to a development near you. ■

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