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Q&A with Todd Richardson,

Project Leader for the Crosstown Development Project

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Last week, the Memphis City Council approved a resolution to fund $15 million toward the $180 million redevelopment of the Sears Crosstown building into a "vertical urban village."

By sometime in 2016, the long-abandoned 1.4-million-square-foot structure will be home to Crosstown's founding partners — Church Health Center, Memphis Teacher Residency, Gestalt Community Schools, Crosstown Arts, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, ALSAC, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, and Rhodes College — as well as 260 apartments and some retail.

With this piece of funding settled, construction is expected to begin in late spring. We checked in with Todd Richardson to see what the new Crosstown building will look like and what we'll see inside.

Flyer: You have the public investment. Now what?

Todd Richardson: Grinder Tabor Grinder will release [construction] documents in the next couple weeks to start the bidding process for subcontractors. By the beginning of February, we'll finalize all the details and the pricing.

What major things will be done to the building?

There will be a main atrium, an east atrium, and a west atrium that will go from the first floor all the way to the roof. This is not only to bring light to the middle of the building. It will also create common space where our founding partners can congregate. There's also three light wells being put in from the seventh floor up through the 10th floor. That creates light sources for the interior of the residential apartments.

Isn't there a plan for a "theater stair" inside the building?

The Delta Regional Authority awarded us $250,000 to design and implement a theater stair. It's a staircase that's 25 feet wide. It will serve as spillover seating for the café and a congregating area. It essentially functions as an amphitheater and every, say, Thursday at lunch, there will be a lecture there by a visiting artist or a teacher or someone from the Church Health Center or someone from St. Jude about their research. It's one more way to integrate the arts, education, and health care.

Do you have any other commitments for tenants beyond the founding partners?

We have commitments from Christian Brothers University, Southern College of Optometry, VO2 Networks (an IT company bringing its headquarters there), and Goodwill Excel Center. Goodwill Memphis is starting a free public high school for adults who dropped out.

Do we know yet what retail will be located in the building?

We're still two-and-a-half years out, so there's no way to have any kind of real commitment with retailers. They won't plan that far out. There will be a café in the building run by Crosstown Arts. That's for sure. It'll be vegetarian with a meat option.

What about the outdoor site around the building?

It's a 19-acre site, so the parking lot on the south side will become a plaza for the community. There's greenspace and a promenade and a water feature. There will be an acre community garden on the west side. We'll be able to put in some greenspace on the north side, which will be for the high school.

You recently won a grant to extend the V&E Greenline to go past the building. How far west will it go?

It's a $50,000 award from the MidSouth Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan. The old railroad tracks extend from where the V&E Greenline currently terminates north of North Parkway all the way to Bellevue, so we hope to extend it that far, but we'll have to work with other owners of property. It will at least go through the Crosstown site for now.

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