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  • Patrick Lantrip

It’s not One Empty Place Anymore

One Memphis Place, the 15-story glass tower at 200 Jefferson Ave., is one of the highest-occupied office buildings in Memphis. 

Don’t call it One Empty Place anymore.

One Memphis Place, the 15-story glass tower at 200 Jefferson Ave. in the heart of Downtown, is now one of the highest-occupied office buildings in Memphis. 

The 40-year-old building has often been belittled for its low occupancy but it’s now 96% to 98% leased, according to Florida-based commercial real estate company Calidus.

Calidus, the first new owner of building since 1998, bought the 206,175-square-foot building for $15 million in 2021 when it had a 75% occupancy rate.

Three years, $5 million in capital improvements and a renewed focus on property management has the building’s owners writing a new chapter.

“The world and the national market story about offices is that everyone’s moving out, not coming to work and there are a lot of vacancies,” said Calidus CEO Jonathan Cameron-Hayes. “Here, the story is completely the opposite. We’re very proud of what we’ve done.” 

Leasing is handled by CBRE Memphis, led by brokers Don Drinkard and Ron Kastner.

Kastner, who leased the building in the 1990s, said One Memphis Place has come a long way since 1985 when the Texas group developing it went bankrupt.

“The building sat vacant for two years,” Kastner said. “Then, it had a big turnaround. And (the improvements) now are not a final chapter, but a great continuation of the story.”

Since the building was bought in 2021, 12 new tenants have signed leases with 55,000 square feet of leasing space, 14 tenants have renewed with 72,000 square feet and four tenants have expanded with an additional 7,500 square feet.

Cameron-Hayes said it wasn’t just about increasing the occupancy rate but also about listening to the tenants. 

“The occupancy was one thing,” Cameron-Hayes said. “The other thing we wanted to do is listen to a lot of comments from the tenants and staff about what's needed to improve.”

The interior improvements included a new full-service management office, 24/7 site security now managed by Calidus, modern lobby flooring, a revolving door, planters and a new digital directory.

The exterior improvements included lighting, landscaping, a private park, upgrading the parking garage's security, striping and numbering the parking spaces and cleaning up the skybridge. 

“Our job is to create an environment for (tenants) to work in peace and quiet and security, and so on,” Cameron-Hayes said. 

Cameron-Hayes said more improvements are in the pipeline, including:

  • an elevator modernization program that will be completed in about a year;

  • an ESG-Carbon Footprint Program to make the building more eco-friendly; 

  • a ground-floor tenant lounge towards the back of the building; 

  • and a ground-floor automated food service station for tenants managed by Canteen Vending Services. 

Calidus has completed multiple projects across the Southeast, including 16 student housing properties, 10 office buildings, and numerous self-storage spaces. 

Cameron-Hayes said he heard of One Memphis Place in 2020 while heading to a student housing property in Arkansas.

After visiting the building and being the only investor there, he knew he wanted to see One Memphis Place complete and participate in the developing Downtown community.

“I saw something very special here, not just in the building but in the city,” Cameron-Hayes said. “Our immediate neighborhood is very important to us.”

Kastner said although they are in the office business, CBRE and the owners want to create a neighborhood

“This building was formerly on the outskirts of the core Downtown, and now everything’s filling in all the way to the edge, and we're now magically moving toward the center,” Kastner said. “I tip my hat to the ownership team and our clients, who have done such a great job of keeping this building on the right track.”

Cameron-Hayes spoke about his frequent conversations with the Downtown Memphis Commission and wanting to partner with them to make One Memphis Place and the surrounding Downtown areas cleaner and more appealing. 

DMC President Chandell Ryan said she is excited to continue working with Cameron-Hayes and to see the investments in these downtown buildings and the market’s response. 

“To see the occupancy rates go up, I think that has something to do with the energy that’s being created by all these projects that are getting to come online, which is great,” Ryan said. 

When Ryan began her career as a lawyer, she used to come into One Memphis Place for the Tennessee Western Bankruptcy Court, which is still a tenant of the building. 

“As a baby lawyer, I do remember coming to this building,” Ryan said. “Walking into it today, it’s so modernized and refreshed that it just feels almost like a newer building even though I know it’s been here.”

She said the future amenities and plans for the building on the property are great tools for getting employees back into the building and using the spaces. 

Cameron-Hayes said he and co-owner and longtime business partners Antony Underwood are excited to be part of Downtown and the new opportunities these developments will create.


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