Developer rejuvenates Frayser retail complex

The dilapidated and abandoned Family Multiplex Center at 1025 and 1029 Whitney Avenue in Frayser is undergoing a makeover as developer and general contractor Stephen S. Dortch Jr. plans to breathe new life into the retail center over the next few months. The renovation is removing blight from a severely distressed area and creating a retail center supported by the surrounding neighborhood.

“This project will help bring the area up and restore some jobs in the Frayser community,” said Dortch, who started his contracting business, Dortch Construction LLC, more than 30 years ago.

The company, which Dortch built up for many years while also working at DuPont, repairs residential and commercial properties across the Mid-South and has also worked with the blight remediation programs for both the city and the county.

Dortch bought the multiplex building about a year ago, and he had planned to put a shop for his contracting business in one end of the building until recent health issues forced him to shelve those plans. Now he and his family, including his wife, Gloria, and son, Steve III, are turning the 11,203-square-foot building into a multi-tenant retail complex.

“They’re going to do a banquet hall on one end and a boutique with a barber shop on the other end,” said Dortch. “It’s going to be a retail and family-oriented destination for the Frayser community. I’ll be leasing some space to get some more good businesses here in the Frayser district.”

He recently received a $20,000 ICED loan from EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County) to help restore and redevelop the commercial space, which was constructed in 1958, into four separate retail sections. The center had previously been used as an insurance office and health clinic but in recent years it had fallen into disrepair.

“After we boarded it up during the winter, over the past month we put doors on each suite,” said Dortch. “Now we’re working on the gas and plumbing lines, fixing walls and painting, and working on the surveillance system for the cameras in the lot. We’re putting an ADT security system on the building, as well as new glass storefronts.”

The loan will also be used to upgrade the electrical system and to install an HVAC system. The project is supported by the Frayser Community Development Corporation, with total costs exceeding $50,000.

“The building is structurally sound. There are just a lot of repairs to do inside. We’ll definitely have one or two suites open in the next 60 days, maybe in 30 days,” said Dortch, whose future plans for the property include installing a new parking lot.

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.