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Tastes Like Chicken

Chick-fil-A may demolish a long-standing Midtown building, and Memphians speak out.



A "For Sale" sign stands prominently in the front lawn of the Cumberland Presbyterian Center on Union, and the future of the structure hangs in the balance.

Chick-fil-A plans to purchase the site to make way for a new drive-through restaurant, and Memphis Heritage has launched a campaign to encourage the fast-food franchise to renovate the building rather than demolish it.

The building, which is the denominational headquarters for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was built in 1951. The church decided to sell the building in 2005 and put the property on the market in February 2006.

"Obviously, some people weren't happy with it, but the delegates who represent the church felt it was [right]," said the Reverend Robert Rush of Cumberland Presbyterian Church's General Assembly. "It was almost a unanimous vote."

The church already has purchased two buildings off Germantown Road and plans to move in after August 1st.

"We are selling the property," Rush said. "And we have no control over it after it is bought."

Henry Stratton, a real estate broker with Colliers Wilkinson & Snowden, says the building is currently under contract, but the Chick-fil-A deal is not finalized.

"The church will take the building down regardless," Stratton said. "The building has nowhere near the value as the property does without it."

Stratton said it would be costly to renovate the building. The walls are poured concrete, and there are only two restrooms, which are not compliant with the ADA.

Code enforcement administrator Allen Medlock said Chick-fil-A applied for a building permit last December, but the permit has not been issued. No one has applied for a demolition permit.

"They will have to have health department approval, approval of landscape design, a demolition contractor, engineers ... lots of approval before they can do anything," Medlock said, "and they will have to go through a rigorous plan review process."

Memphis Heritage director June West says Chick-fil-A recently contacted her and agreed to send vice president Erwin Reid to meet with Memphis Heritage and a group of local architects and designers to investigate possible adaptive reuse.

"Mr. Reid expressed that Chick-fil-A did not want to have a negative impact on the Midtown neighborhood," West said. "He is still very concerned about the difficulty of adapting the building to meet their purpose, and he made no promises."

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