Todd Richardson blew into our Midtown Republican Club meeting last night with a gale force. The man in charge of Project Development for the Crosstown area sat down and energetically launched into his vision for the area.
Where the public now sees the Sears Building as an empty eyesore languishing for twenty years, Richardson sees an opportunity. “Rather than looking at the building as something to be filled, I asked myself how about making a new neighborhood? A stack of ten stories? How about a vertical urban village?” he asked.
He has since launched into the project with a preacher type fervor. “In my role of vision and design I get to evangelize. I get to talk to the City Council and County Commission and tell them about this great project that isn’t going to take much money, but will bring jobs and life to the community,” Richardson said.
An assistant professor of art history at the University of Memphis and Fullbright scholar, Richardson has been working on this project for four years. The current team began in 2009 and first asked can anything be done with the old building? The answer was yes. Eight founding partners signed up.
Sears closed the building in 1983, with the distribution center closing in 1993, Richardson explained. “It was built in 1927 in 180 days. When it opened, 35,000 people toured it. Its 1.5 million gross square feet equal three Clark Towers and equal the Chrysler Building (in New York). Approximately 1,800 people worked there.”
In the 90s Sears closed other such buildings. Seattle’s became a Starbucks headquarters. Boston’s became Landmark Insurance. Dallas has one as does Minneapolis, which like ours was built around 1928 and Atlanta’s is under construction for residential and retail traffic.
“We have close relationships with all of those,” Richardson said. “They tell us ‘don’t pay our dumb tax.'”
Tomorrow: What the new area will look like.