The Crosstown Development Team and Crosstown Collaborative (the neighborhood's new association) held a public forum on Tuesday night at the Crosstown Arts office on Cleveland to fill neighbors in on plans for the Sears building.
Todd Richardson, project leader for the Crosstown Development Team, gave a presentation on plans to turn the 1.4-million square foot building into a "vertical urban village" complete with healthcare from the Church Health Center, Methodist Hospital, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, shared art-making facilities and artist residency programs run by Crosstown Arts, and an education component with Gestalt Community Schools and Memphis Teacher Residency. The plans also include a mix of market rate and affordably priced apartments, retail, and possibly a restaurant space.
Construction is expected to begin by early 2014 with a completion goal of 2016. The development team is asking the Memphis City Council to budget $15 million to cover some infrastructure costs for the $175 million project.
Neighbors — many of them from the nearby Evergreen Historic District, the Vollintine-Evergreen Historic District, and the Speedway Terrace Historic District — asked questions about the current condition of the building, the importance of city funding, and parking issues.
Richardson said parking for the building's new tenants and employees could mostly be accommodated by the existing parking garage. As for increased neighborhood traffic, Richardson said the streets around the Crosstown building were designed to be wide to accommodate Sears traffic in its heyday and that the project is just bringing the neighborhood's capacity back to where it used to be.
One resident asked Richardson how the developers would prevent gentrification that may come with rising rents and property values of existing neighborhood homes and businesses. Richardson said protecting the ethnically diverse neighborhood's population is a goal of the development team, and while he expects rents to rise a little, he said the team is making an effort to communicate with business and property owners in the area to ensure that they are prepared for any changes.