River view on South Bluffs

Aug 29, 2003

Date: Sunday, August 31, 2003, 11:00pm CDT

The solid concrete fortress at 648 Riverside known as the Memphis Import Building will soon be converted into 68 condos by Shelby Group Realty.

Three stories will be added to the current two-story, 74,000-square-foot building, bringing its total size to 118,000 square feet. Construction is expected to begin in December and will be completed by the end of 2004.

Plans call for units between 1,200 and 2,300 square feet. Prices will range from $150,000 to $400,000.

Located directly across the street from the Rivermark and adjacent to the South Bluffs Apartments, the expanded building will have a high-profile.

"It's the entrance to Downtown," says chief manager Jason Crews. "It's conveniently located off the interstate. It's the first thing you see. It's a landmark."

Jason Crews' uncle, Lauren Crews, brokered the sale of the building to the Jason Crews Partnership on behalf of the McMillin family, which owns Memphis Import. A consultant on the project, Lauren Crews says the concrete building is strong enough to sustain the additional stories and the wide open floors require little interior demolition.

"There are pillars every 21 feet, otherwise it's clear," Lauren Crews says. "You don't have a lot to work around."

Second floor units will have 14-foot ceilings and third, fourth and fifth floor units will have 12-foot ceilings. The first floor will have a 70-space, secured parking garage and 46 additional outside spaces.

Jason Crews estimates the total retail value of the project will be $15 million. As condos, the project does not qualify for a Center City Commission tax abatement

The project is Shelby Group Realty's first Downtown. The family-owned company has done commercial and industrial development in southeast Shelby County, commercial buildings in Olive Branch and residential subdivisions in Collierville and Fayette County.

"There's more demand than supply," says Lauren Crews, who has options on some condo units. "I think it's a good time to get in it."

There is more supply coming to the southern end of Downtown. Site work has begun on the first phase of Southland Cos.'s South End condo development. Southland president Terry Lynch says the 100 units on the northeast corner of Tennessee and Georgia should be ready by late spring 2004. The condos will sell for the low $100,000s to the low $300,000s. 310 apartments will ready by summer of next year.

Lynch says he isn't worried about 68 condos coming online so close to his.

"I think there's plenty of demand," Lynch says. "Right now, the more the better