South City adaptive reuse project reinvigorates old warehouse space

A major adaptive reuse project in downtown’s South City area is underway at 158 Vance Avenue, where Oden & Associates Inc., a B2B marketing and communications firm, will relocate its headquarters early next year.

Oden & Associates joins a host of redevelopment projects in the area, including the rehab of the historic Clayborn Temple, redevelopment of the Universal Life Insurance building and the demolition of Foote Homes. 

“It’s really an exciting venture for us,” said Bret Terwilleger, COO and chief creative officer for Oden.

“I think any time an organization lays claim to owning its own building and driving those stakes in the ground, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. It brings a lot of pride for the management group here and for the employees.”

Oden, led by Terwilliger and Principal/CEO William F. Carkeet, purchased the South City property for $500,000 a couple of years ago. The firm is moving from Pembroke Place across from the Peabody Tower, where it has operated for the past 22 years.

“We’re anchoring that corner, and our hope is that it will infill between us and South Main,” said Terwilliger.

“We’re going to bring life and vitality there with people coming and going. It will no longer be just a deserted building on the corner. I hope it will be the beginning of a new era for that area.”

Oden’s buildings had previously been used by Color Craft commercial printing company and have been vacant and dilapidated in recent years. The nearly 80-year-old warehouse and office space sits across the street from the Memphis Machine Works industrial space and is just two blocks south of the FedEx Forum.

Other properties in the neighborhood have been redeveloped recently, as the area has evolved into mixed-use with homes, office space, industrial buildings, hotels and restaurants. One block to the south at 115 Vance Avenue, the Hollywood Disco building has been refurbished and is up for lease.

To the west, developer Orgel Family LLC is renovating the Memphis Firehouse No. 3 for the Memphis Music Initiative nonprofit to occupy by early next year. The COGIC Christian organization owns several parcels to the south of Oden’s new property, and their future use is uncertain at this time.

Related: "Former Downtown fire station to ignite musical creativity"

Architecture Inc. handled the redesign of Oden’s property.

“Coming up with the design for this project involved the fact that it is actually six additions that have been linked together through the years, so some of the real challenges were figuring out how to make those joints and junctions part of the floor plans while also creating one big floor plan that says Oden all the way throughout instead of it being so disjointed,” said Architecture Inc. principal Valentina Cochran.

One of the Architecture Inc.’s specialties is adaptive renovation and restoration work, and the firm is responsible for projects like reconfiguring the former Prince Mongo’s building at 56-62 South Front Street and the historic Kress Building at 7 North Main Street.

The Oden property consists of two major structures joined by a smaller connecting space. Oden will move its offices into the larger 17,000-square-foot space, and the smaller 14,000-square-foot building is being converted into a 34-spot parking garage for the company’s employees.

“The open one-story office floor plan will feature large and small collaborative areas scattered throughout the building, with a general flow of foot traffic through the space,” said Cochran.

Architecture Inc. worked to preserve some of the historic elements of the property, including the black Art Deco front door and interior brick walls and vaults.

Demolition on the interior just wrapped up this week, and Montgomery Martin is the general contractor that will be completing the construction.

“We’ve gutted the whole building, and it looks totally different in there now,” said Terwilliger. “There had been three different ceilings that had been added over the years, so with all them removed you can now see the exposed timbers. It’s starting to come along the way we had envisioned it.”

In addition to the interior work, a new roof will be installed on the older office space building.

Total renovation costs are estimated at $3 million, and Oden hopes to move in by March of next year. With room to grow in the new building, the firm plans to expand its staff in the coming years.

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.
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