Date: November 18, 2018

A coffee-sipping, art-viewing, food-loving, beer-drinking tour of Crosstown Concourse

When you get to Crosstown Concourse, leave your car in the garage — the upper floors with no parking time limit. You’re going to be here a while.

Use the main crosswalk to enter through the Central Atrium.

Your first stop will likely be on the other side of the polished concrete floors.

You can’t miss the vibrant yellow signs surrounded by gray metal high-top tables with coordinating gray and yellow chairs. This is French Truck Coffee. It has the caffeine you need to fuel your day at Crosstown.

‘An entire society in one building’

You’re likely to see Molly Wallace, who is consulting on the library design for Crosstown High School. She’s here sipping coffee at least once a week. On Monday, she was with her roommate Kelsey Hoffman.

“I’m pretty dependent on this place,” Wallace said as she rattled off the reasons for her visits: weekly workdays, buying bottles of cold brew coffee to drink at home and stopping by the Teach for America office on the fourth floor.

When she and Hoffman have friends in town, that’s another trip to Crosstown.

“Literally any time we have a visitor to Memphis, this is where we take them,” Wallace added. “Bass Pro and Crosstown.”

Hoffman said she stops by a couple of times a month. Sometimes she gets work done while she’s there. On Monday, she was booking tickets for the Christmas trip she plans to take to Thailand and Indonesia.

They are just two of the 3,000 people who cycle through the building on an average day. In the mornings, you can see waves of residents from 265 apartments, which are 98 percent occupied, pouring off the elevators as they head off to work.

At noon, the employees from Church HealthSt. Jude and the other companies that work from the building head down for lunch at a range of restaurants that can fulfill cravings from fried chicken wings to a vegan black bean burger.

By 3:30 p.m. Crosstown High School lets out and the Atrium is flooded with teenagers.

Along with the school, there’s a gym, a theater, an art gallery, two bars, a small grocery store, shops, restaurants, a doctor’s office and a dentist.

Wallace said she and her boyfriend joke that there is no reason to leave once you get to Crosstown.

“My boyfriend likes to compare it to this book by J.G. Ballard called ‘High-Rise,’ which is like an entire society living in one building,” Wallace said. “He thinks in like 20 years there’s going to be a kid who has never left this building.

“That is a dystopian view of it,” she said a moment later, laughing. “I think it’s really cool though.”

Art, ice cream and the perfect selfie

Maybe you don’t have time for a 20-year stay, but it’s easy to while away a few spare hours exploring the rest of this 1.5 million-square-foot-building.

To the left of the coffee shop there is Area 51 Ice Cream. It is scooping handmade, small-batch ice cream every day but usually has at least one non-dairy sorbet option on hand too. It opens Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sundays at noon.

Walk a bit farther and you’ll be in the East Atrium.

The first thing to catch your eye will likely be the striking red spiral staircase — the perfect backdrop for a quick picture, which you’ll probably have to wait in line behind everyone else to take.

This staircase is also one of Crosstown co-leader Todd Richardson’s favorite places in the building, after his apartment on the upper floors, of course.

Behind the staircase is Farm Burger, which opens daily at 11 a.m., and a couple of the newest additions to Crosstown: a membership-based shared workshop for artists equipped with tools for woodworking, printmaking, photography and recording inside and a brand-new theater outside.

Wander up the spiraling stairs and you’ll find Crosstown Arts.

Through Dec. 2, the two galleries on the second floor at Crosstown Arts will house “Give a Damn! Music and Activism at Stax Records” and “Lay of the Land,” a collection of artwork by Los Angeles-based artist John Pearson.

“We try to choose culturally relevant shows and exhibitions, and we’re particularly focused on the community of Memphis’ artists but also thinking beyond that as well,” said Terri Phillips, who coordinate exhibits for Crosstown Arts.

Outside the galleries, you’ll find the Today and Always cafe serving mostly vegan and vegetarian meals and Art Bar. These are where you’re most likely to run into one of the artists in residency at Crosstown Arts.

The bar, cafe and galleries are closed on Mondays.

‘Everything is an art project’

When Amanda Sparks, Crosstown Arts residency director, isn’t helping choose artists for stays at Crosstown ranging from 20 days to three months, she’s helping to design the spaces.

She handpicked most of the vintage furniture that decorates Art Bar.

Amanda Sparks, Crosstown Arts residency director, helped design the spaces in Crosstown Concourse. She also handpicked the vintage furniture that decorates Art Bar.

Photos, paintings, figurines and even decks of cards covered in cats, dogs and birds decorate the walls and tables. Orange, yellow and electric blue fabrics cover the chairs, and large swaths of the bare concrete walls are still visible.

“It’s just an art project,” Sparks said. “Everything at Crosstown Concourse is an art project.”

When you’re ready, keep moving around the corner and back downstairs.

This time, take the black staircase back down into the Central Atrium where you started the morning and head in the opposite direction.

Retail therapy and a cooking class

On the walk, you’ll pass Lucy J’s Bakery tucked in alongside photos that remind visitors of the history of the building. It was once a Sears distribution hub. It stood empty for decades before it reopened as Crosstown Concourse last year. The development was a $200 million project made possible in part by millions of dollars in tax incentives.

Past Lucy J’s on the right you’ll see the Church Health kitchen. A schedule is always written on the walls to tell you what’s coming up if you want to take a cooking lesson.

Crosstown Concourse is a 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use space that holds a high school, apartments, office spaces, retail stores, a pharmacy, a coffee shop, art galleries and much more.

Church Health operates the YMCA gym and hosts nutrition, fitness and meditation classes as well. A calendar of its classes is on its website.

Keep going out one set of doors near I Love Juice Bar and down another hall.

Side by side, there’s a FedEx store, Madison PharmacySaucy Chicken restaurant and a nail salon before you hit Cheryl Pesce: The Lifestyle Store.

Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Pesce sells jewelry, books and home decor items.

Pesce started as a jewelry maker, but each time she posted a picture of a pair of earrings or a bracelet for sale, she’d get questions about the dress she was wearing or a lamp in the background. That eventually led to her shop.

“It’s literally a 600-square-foot department store,” said Pesce, who has a five-year lease. “When you come into the store, what I hope you feel and what people tell me they feel is like you’re in someone’s home.”

Your last stop for the day is easy to miss.

Head out the door at the end of the West Atrium and keep walking. At the end of the property, you’ll run into the Crosstown Brewing Co. It opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon Friday through Sunday.

After all that exploring, you’ve earned a drink.

1350 CONCOURSE AVE • MEMPHIS, TN • 38104 • 901.203.8300