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  • Neil Strebig

One Memphis Place owners plan $5 million renovation

Updated: Mar 11

Florida-based Calidus bought the building at 200 Jefferson Ave. in August 2021 for $15. 2 million when it was at 75% capacity

One Memphis Place, the iconic Downtown building that has been called a few cheeky names in the past, including “One Empty Place,” is poised for a multi-million dollar improvement.

Florida-based Calidus bought the building at 200 Jefferson Ave. in August 2021 for $15. 2 million when it was at 75% capacity. Today, the building is at 84% capacity with 40 tenants, and there is about 30,000 square feet of space available. “Leasing is going well and that is really encouraging,” Calidus CEO Jon Cameron-Hayes said. “We want people to be back in the office.”

Of course, Calidus wants 100% occupancy, but the main goal for Cameron-Hayes is to focus on the smaller details first. Calidus, whose Mid-South footprint includes the Regions Center in Nashville along with student-housing projects under development in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Chattanooga, plans to spend $5 million over the next three years on renovating the building. “Jon has done more to this building in a year than the last 10 to 20 years combined,” said Ron Kastner of CBRE, which is handling the leasing and property management for the 15-story property.

The building, which dates back to 1983, has had a bit of a storied past and at one point — was a bit deserving of its not-so-flattering name. Kastner recalls the building running into issues soon after it was built. “The nickname ‘One Empty Place’ resulted from the One Memphis Place project’s scheduled completion being stopped due to a collapse of the original lender,” he said. The lender ran into issues during the historic Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s which caused significant turmoil within the commercial real estate market.

In Memphis, the Morgan Keegan Tower (known today as the Raymond James Tower) opened in the fall of 1985 and leased up rather quickly, Kastner said.

“The One Memphis Place building sat empty for nearly two years until it changed hands and leasing began with federal government leases,” he said. “Many of which still occupy space within the building.” Since securing tenants the building has remained nearly a 50/50 split between government and private sector tenants. Upcoming renovations will include improving the entrance to the building from the adjacent garage. The garage renovations should take up to four months to complete, Cameron-Hayes said.

Other renovations underway have largely been remodeling offices for current tenants or modernizing unused office spaces to accent the natural light available within the building.

Cameron-Hayes said the company plans to improve air ventilation along with remodeling the building’s main lobby, which is still outfitted in 1980s jade marble tile and a complimenting tenant map at the welcome desk. Additionally, the company has begun organizing weekly food trucks near the adjacent courtyard space on the northern half of the building along the intersection of Adams Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard.

Cameron-Hayes said the team wants to continue finding “creative solutions” to help make tenants feel welcome coming into and out of the building. He said once the nearby 100 N. Main building is renovated and restored, it should help bolster the foot traffic along the entire block. CBRE’s property management offices are on the 4th floor along with the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum on the 10th floor. Both have received modern upgrades. The business council relocated from their Midtown offices at 158 Madison Ave., president and CEO Jozelle Luster Booker said.

“We liked that it was Downtown and the overall design of the building,” she said. Booker said the team’s previous office was a bit “landlocked” by neighboring buildings and the ease of access to the riverwalk was a perk for her and her staff. The new 6,982-square-foot office provides each of the 14 staff members a window office along with a conference room and training room. “The fun factor is important in Downtown,” Kastner said. He said the proximity to amenities remains an advantage for One Memphis Place and the increased demand for some businesses to want to offer more resources for staff.

Both Cameron-Hayes and Kastner acknowledged a stronger demand for a return to the office in Memphis. Cameron-Hayes noted how the return has been significantly more noticeable than larger markets such as New York City and he said there’s something to be said about smaller markets and the advantages from both a development side and also from a tenant side with being able to design or redesign your own office space.

“The workplace is adapting to less of a concentrated workforce for more frequent employment interaction,” Kastner said. “That communal need is going to be even more present now.” According to the first-quarter report from CBRE the Memphis office real estate market has seen a 13.6% decrease in vacancy with 103,000-square-feet of office space currently under construction.

Kastner noted that part of the bounce back for the Memphis office market compared to others has been due to less subleasing and longer-term leases around Memphis.

Additionally, the Memphis market just hit a $35 per square foot pricing peak for office space. The average in Nashville is closer to $60 per square foot, he said. According to the CBRE lease listings for One Memphis Place, pricing ranges from $18 to $20.50 per square foot for available office space. Granted, construction costs and timelines remain a concern, but one that Cameron-Hayes said has extended into an advantage for tenants and property owners like himself. “It’s adding longevity to these lease terms,” he said.


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