Historic South Main renovation lures new office tenant

Following a recent renovation of its third floor, a historic building at 431 South Main Street, directly across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum plaza, is welcoming new office tenants.

Architect John Harrison Jones co-owns the three-story building, and he also operates his firm out of some of the ground floor office space. The Memphis-based firm handles design work for custom residential projects, light commercial, and institutional buildings across the U.S.

The 32,000-square-foot warehouse building, which features heavy timber with 15-foot ceilings, was fully renovated into office lofts beginning in 2008 after Bluff4 LLC, which names Jones as a partner, purchased, the building for $660,000.

“The building had never been renovated. It was original from when it was built in 1911,” said Jones. “We just cleaned it out, sandblasted the whole interior [which had been covered in a lime white-wash material], put new bathrooms and facilities into it, and turned it into Class A loft office spaces.”

The building was originally a food warehouse for the distribution of dry goods and food stuffs up until the 1970s. A loading dock on Nelson Avenue once welcomed horses and mules that carried bags of flour or sugar to destinations across the Mid-South. In fact, as part of the historic restoration, one of the original scales used 100 years ago is incorporated into the architecture.

A machinery sales company leased the building from the 1970s through the 1980s before it was bought by local artist and furniture maker Don Estes, who eventually sold the building to Bluff4.

“When we started, our idea for this building was to put apartments in it, but it was too expensive to put in 16 units,” said Jones. “So it made much more sense and was more economical to convert in for business loft occupancy.”

Late last year, the 6,000-square-foot third floor was updated again, combining two previous spaces into one, with newly finished flooring, paint, and partitions. Archer Custom Builders, which operates from the building’s ground floor space facing South Main Street, handled the construction.

In early March, the Walk, Cook & Lakee law firm moved into the third-floor space, moving up from a space they previously occupied on the second floor. The firm needed more space as it merged with one of its offices within the International Paper building in East Memphis.

An 1,800-square-foot space on the second floor formerly occupied by the Memphis Music Commission is open for lease, along with the 2,800-square-foot space abandoned by Walk, Cook & Lakee.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

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.