Address: 495 North Watkins Street, Memphis
Architectural Style: Art Deco
Original Function/Purpose: Commerce
History: This was one of the first Sears stores situated in a relatively open area of the city that provided a large amount of free parking. It was the largest building in Memphis when it opened. This regional distribution center included a soda fountain, luncheonette, employee cafeteria and in-house hospital, not to mention a three-story-tall “tank room” containing a 70,000 gallon water tank for fire sprinklers. The retail store closed in 1983 and the customer credit center and catalog merchandise distribution center in 1990. The building was put up for sale, and was finally vacated when Sears stopped printing its catalog in 1993. A $200 million-plus renovation was completed in 2017 that transformed the building into a “vertical urban village” containing residential, commercial, educational, health care and art facilities. The architectural firm that worked on the project, LRK (Looney Ricks Kiss architects), has declared it “the largest historic adaptive reuse LEED Building Design + Construction Platinum project in the world.” Now known as Crosstown Concourse, the structure was honored in 2017 when The Architectural Review magazine listed it for its significance in adaptive use and retrofit “in a world with a growing awareness of the environmental implications of building anew” and the “re-appropriation of disused infrastructure.” In 2018 the transformation of the building garnered several awards: in April the Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) presented several awards to architectural firms LRK and Archimania for their work; in May the renovation received the grand prize from the 2018 Congress for The New Urbanism; and in October it earned a prestigious Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award bestowed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The AIA also selected the building for one of nine 2019 Honor Awards.
City Council District: 7
Super District: 8
County Commission District: 8