Turnaround tale: Memphis resident purchases and renovates run-down apartment building

One developer, eight contractors, six figures, and six months later, 952 J.W. Williams Lane is home to five new tenants. Located north of the Memphis Medical District, the Garden Flats is now open to residents thanks to Memphis transplant and developer Kevin Crutcher.

“When I bought it, it was trashed. Most of the windows were not in, and the doors were not there. The floors were rotted. People were living in it with no electricity or water,” Crutcher said. “It was bad. It took about four big construction dumpsters to clean it out.”

The Garden Flats apartments before Kevin Crutcher purchased and renovated the property. (Submitted)Built in the 1960s, the building is a multifamily seven-unit property that features two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments furnished with a refrigerator, stove, washer, and dryer. A bonus of the property is its location next to the Carnes community garden at 916 J.W. Williams Street. Neighborhood Preservation Inc., a community revitalization nonprofit, founded the garden in 2014.

Related: "Planting a neighborhood: Halting the cycle of decline at the Carnes Teaching Garden"
 

“I like the rural feel of the property. I worked really hard at keeping all of the trees, so it’s shaded,” Crutcher said. “It feels a lot more homey than a lot of places. You walk right out and face the community garden, so it’s just has a different feel. I worked hard at preserving that.”

The property has attracted a tight-knit variety of tenants. Jazmine Tricoche, a transplant from Atlanta, moved into the building after renting in a gated apartment complex in East Memphis for three years. The design of her unit, size of the building, proximity to her custom printing business Dream Life, and savings on rent were all deciding factors in her move to Garden Flats.

“Because it's only seven units, I’m actually getting to know my neighbors and I feel safe,” Tricoche said. “My experience since living here has been really great. We have a group text message and once everyone gets settled we plan to do a welcome barbecue.”

Crutcher bought his first property when he was 22 years old and has pursued property development for two decades. While property is Crutcher’s passion, it is not his full-time profession. A Nashville native, his work with Nationwide Insurance brought him to Memphis in June 2013. 

In addition to two Nashville rental properties, Crutcher owns the refurbished Garden Flats apartment building, two duplexes, and two lots in Memphis. Much of his knowledge he has gained on his own through experience and research, as well as through community organizations.

Crutcher, a member of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, participated in the organization's Emerging Developers boot camp and presented at the Memphis Neighborhood Preservation Summit in October.

“Through a 2017 grant from the Kresge Foundation, MMDC partnered with The Incremental Development Alliance, ULI Memphis, The City of Memphis, Neighborhood Preservation Inc., and the Downtown Memphis Commission to help grow our small-scale developer eco-system,” explained Tommy Pacello, president of MMDC.

A view of the renovated Garden Flats apartment complex. (Submitted)
“The Emerging Developer workshops, boot camps, and meet-ups are designed to connect aspiring small-scale developers with the know-how, resources and opportunities within our community to make a difference in our neighborhoods while also building wealth.”

Understanding how to finance his projects has been a major factor in Crutcher’s development successes.

“When I knew that I wanted to start investing in property in Memphis again, the first thing I started doing was securing financing,” Crutcher said. “When I started looking, I already had available funds. I also borrowed money through loans.”

Crutcher found himself in a unique situation in purchasing The Garden Flats because it was a multifamily building.

“Most banks don’t lend to multifamily units. A bank like Bank of America or SunTrust doesn’t do multiunit properties,” Crutcher said. “You almost have to ask for referrals from professional organizations that can get you to the lenders who do them. There’s not a lot of local lenders who lend to multiunit stuff, especially those that are in the kind of shape that my apartments were in when I bought them.”

Crutcher ended up getting a hard money loan for the project. This type of loan is typically issued by a private investor or company and is an asset-based loan where the borrower receives funds secured by real property.
Kevin Crutcher (Submitted)“It’s called a hard money loan because the money is expensive,” Crutcher said. “I did a construction loan, so they gave me money as I requested it. I didn’t get a lump sum. The process was kind of tedious but after the first month or so when they saw how organized I was with everything, they kind of loosened up.”

Renovations on the property started in April and Crutcher was able to move his first tenants into the building in October. Now that the property is renovated, he is in the process of refinancing the hard money into a regular loan. The total cost to purchase and renovate the property was roughly $250,000.

“I hired electricians, plumbers, HVAC, carpentry contractors to come in and do the work as I needed it. The roofing and flooring, I had companies come in and do that,” Crutcher said. “Then, a lot of the stuff I did myself. I hung all the cabinets and did the hood vents. And, I installed all of the appliances.”

Crutcher’s wife, Sonya Crutcher, leads property management and administration for his properties. Several other individuals from the community helped on the project along the way. For example, Crutcher's neighbor lent him electricity for two months through extension cords until the apartments’ electrical systems were installed.

“I can’t tell you how many times people from the community came up and shook my hand. They are really appreciative of the fact that I’m investing in their community. That was pretty awesome because I wasn’t really expecting that,” Crutcher said. “About once a week someone would come by and ask if I needed help or say they’re not working and looking for work. And if it was anything I could get them to do, I would do it.”

Crutcher’s kindness makes the difference for his neighbors and tenants.

“Kevin is very professional as well as personable, and when you’re doing business that is good for longevity,” Tricoche said. “He takes pride in the renovation that’s he’s done and he’s not just trying to sell something. If I tell Kevin I have an issue, he’s on it the same day or the next day.”

Crutcher’s one caution from this project, to himself and future developers, was to study building codes. He discovered that standards he thought were grandfathered in were often dealt with on a case-to-case basis and required adjustments that meant extra work. He has his eye on further developments as he bought the land that surrounds Garden Flats.

The vacant lots near [the Garden Flats] weren’t being kept up, so I bought them,” Crutcher said. “I’m just doing little stuff to try to keep the value of property up.”

Read more articles by Ashlei Williams.

Memphis Native Ashlei Williams has been writing for business, philanthropic, minority and academic audiences for a decade. She earned her master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School and bachelor’s in English from Spelman College. In 2016, she started GJC Publicity, focusing on editorial, marketing, advertising and creative writing. Get in touch with her at ashlei@gjcpublicity.com.
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