Crosstown Concourse exists at the intersection of art, life and civic drive, where life is lived as a creative process. Here, everyday activity captures the imagination, inspires curiosity and celebrates a mosaic of ideas, sounds and spirits. Join us. Be part of the tapestry of people coming together to create, explore and change the world around us.
Life’s too short. Live Life+Art.
To create moments of discovery for all.
To use a building to change how people experience their lives, their neighborhood and their city by purposefully creating unexpected connections.
Early in the morning on August 27, 1927, a skyscraper, ten stories tall and the size of a fifteen-acre farm, was unveiled to the public. Sears Crosstown, the latest structure in the Sears mail-order empire, was a new regional distribution center that anticipated the advent of Memphis as the nation’s distribution center.
More than thirty-five thousand Memphians gathered that day at this formerly vacant lot to see the grand opening of the Sears Crosstown building. Across the Bluff City, thousands of other Memphians were in virtual attendance for the event thanks to WMC Radio, which was broadcasting the opening
Chamber of Commerce president Phil Canale spoke, comparing the new building to the pyramid of the original Egyptian city named Memphis. He added that while the pyramid of ancient Egypt was a tomb for the dead, the new Memphis structure was giving the world “a living thing for the living.” Finally, Mayor Paine introduced the featured speaker, Julius Rosenwald, the chairman of the board of directors of Sears, Roebuck & Company.
Rosenwald was not just a businessman; he was the nation’s leading benefactor of public education for African American children across the South. Rosenwald became the leading contributor to Washington’s Tuskegee Institute and also Fisk University. He poured millions of dollars into education for Black schoolchildren in the South, helping build nearly five thousand schools and even homes for African American teachers.
On that hot August day in Memphis, Rosenwald was a visionary for all Memphians and Mid-Southerner. In his speech, he prophesied to Memphians, “Your city will learn in time that the opening this morning of a Sears Roebuck & Co. plant is an epoch-making event.” That turned out to be an understatement. From that day forward, the Sears Crosstown building has been a symbol of many Memphians’ hopes, wishes and dreams.
Long before Graceland became the nation’s second most-visited residence (behind only the White House), there were three places that became the destination spots for tourists coming to Memphis: the Peabody Hotel, the Zoo at Overton Park and Sears Crosstown.
And then, in the 1980s, Sears went into a precipitous decline in the face of a new generation of competitors that ironically used the very techniques that Sears, Roebuck & Company had created, applying them in the emerging internet age. Sears began closing many of its older buildings across the nation.
By 1993, the Sears Crosstown building had become vacant. The surrounding Midtown neighborhood that had once been the site of restaurants, stores and one of Memphis’s earliest and largest movie theaters went into a state of decline. Soon, Sears Crosstown was not the only vacant building in the Crosstown neighborhood.
Then, in the second decade of the new century, an eclectic group emerged that shared a vision for Sears Crosstown. The first visionaries included an art historian, an artist and a local businessman with a long history of philanthropic investment in the city. They were later joined by a development team, a minister-doctor and several local, well-respected institutions in arts, education and healthcare. These very different people, businesses and organizations eventually came to share the same vision: that Sears Crosstown could be resurrected as a vertical urban village populated by physicians, artists and musicians, educators, entrepreneurs, residents and scores of others coming to take part in the community.
For decades, millions of people had flocked to Sears Crosstown to grant wishes for themselves, their families and friends. It was affectionately known as the “Wish Building.” These new visionaries now saw Sears Crosstown as a place where people would gather again, this time for healing, learning, creating, shopping and living.
That vision would become a reality as Crosstown Concourse opened in August 2017, ninety years after Mayor Paine cut the ribbon for the opening of the original building on August 27, 1927. What was once a national hub for the distribution of goods was on its way to being transformed into a local heart for the cultivation of well-being, shifting focus from products to people, from commodity to
quality of life.
• The facade of the building is 60% glass.
• 3,200 window panels were replaced but were meticulously fabricated to match the originals.
• The mortar between all 7 million exterior bricks was replaced by 120 workers over the course of 14 months. If you lined every brick up end-to-end, it would span the distance from Memphis to New Orleans!
• Workers installed 15 miles of HVAC duct and 32 miles of sprinkler piping through the course of renovation.
• Concourse contains a state-of-the-art central plant capable of heating and cooling 730 3-bedroom homes.
Fitwell certification: NY—The Center for Active Design (CfAD), operator of the Fitwel
Certification System, awarded certification to four projects in the country. Fitwel Community is a cutting-edge, evidence-based standard for optimizing holistic health benefits at the neighborhood scale.
2020 TN Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award: Pursuit of Excellence Awards, which recognizes past award winners who continue to demonstrate a high regard for environmental stewardship.
2019 Best of the South: Preserving Southern Architecture committee for the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SESAH)
2019 ULI Global Awards for Excellence, finalist (one of 14 finalists)
2019 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture National Honor Award in Education: Crosstown High
2019 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture National Honor Award
Best Mixed-Use Community Award and Multifamily Community of the Year Award: Pillars of Multifamily Industry Award program.
Crosstown Theater, Best New Construction, Building Memphis Awards 2018, Memphis Business Journal
Crosstown Brewing Company, Best New Construction, Building Memphis Awards 2018, Memphis Business Journal
Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (Gold Medalist)
National Recognition Award, American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) 2019 Engineering Excellence Awards
Grand Award, Tennessee chapter of ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies)
Finalist, 2018 National Association of Home Builders Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Award
Multi-Housing News’ Excellence Award
2018 USGBC Tennessee Leadership Award for Exceptional Leadership
Multifamily Executive – Adaptive Reuse Grand Award and Editor’s Choice for the Parcels Apartments
ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) 2018 Outstanding Project of the Year for Tennessee
BD+C’s 35th Annual Reconstruction Awards, Platinum Award Winner (one of two nationally)
Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award, National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Congress for the New Urbanism Charter Awards: Grand Prize
Tennessee Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award (Building Green)
AIA Memphis: Honor Award of Excellence
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC): LEED Platinum Certified
(the largest LEED Platinum Certified historic adaptive reuse in the world)
Memphis Business Journal’s Building Memphis Awards: Project of the Year 2017
Thomas W Briggs Foundation: Community Impact Award
Architecture Review’s New into Old Awards: Shortlist
Trane National Energy Efficiency Leader Award 2015
MAAR (Memphis Area Association of Realtors): Community Impact Award
Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits: Community Development Qualified Low-Income Community Investment of the Year Award
John S Wilder Rebuild Tennessee Award
2013 Memphis Business Quarterly’s Innovation Award Winner