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By Bill Dries - The Daily News -
The Downtown Memphis Commission is working with developers interested in converting the Chisca Hotel into a set of smaller studio apartments.
DMC president Paul Morris on Tuesday, March 13, talked in general terms about working with the developers, noting the commission has signed a confidentiality agreement with them.
“The people that need to be behind this are behind it,” he told members of the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. board.
The Daily News reported in November the property is under contract with the same local development partnership that bought and is renovating One Commerce Square.
The hotel at Linden Avenue and South Main Street has been subject over the years to several plans for renovation as either apartments or rebirth as a hotel. But for decades none of them have made it off the drawing board.
There was a 2006 plan to turn the adjacent, more-modern hotel that had been added onto the Chisca into a Hilton Garden Inn motel. The effort failed to gain traction. And other, more tentative plans for the original hotel withered in the national recession that followed.
The property remains boarded up as nearby properties in the South Main Historic Arts District are transformed into businesses, restaurants and retail shops.
Morris said the building’s time in limbo has been “embarrassing.”
“It’s a huge negative,” he said. “It represents a huge psychological barrier.”
Any plans are in the very early stages, Morris emphasized. But the concept is to reopen the Chisca as apartments with smaller square footage that would rent for less than the Downtown market average to provide more living choices for the area.
“We need that option,” Morris said. “This could be the best and last chance to save the Chisca. If this doesn’t work, the next chance for the Chisca might not involve saving the building.”
The area of Downtown has been a hot spot for hotel plans in recent years including the nearby Westin Memphis Beale Street Hotel. Also, plans were announced in 2010 for the Royal Phoenix Hotel at Linden and Fourth Street, but that project has yet to materialize.
An apartment building, presumably with retail on the ground floor, would be a unique use in an area where most of the housing is single-story or two-story condos or apartments.