Special ground is broken for One Beale

See article in The Daily Memphian

Dignitaries on Tuesday, Aug. 20, celebrated the construction start for One Beale, the long-awaited mixed-use development that promises to extend Beale Street’s energy to the Mississippi River.

The ceremony drew nearly 100 perspiring guests inside the historic Ellis Machine Shops building.

They could grab one of the 10-ounce bottles of water labeled “One Beale: Groundbreaking 08/20/2019” while viewing a gallery of renderings for the future buildings.

Outside, there was nothing ceremonial about the work of the construction crews.

At the southwest corner of Front and Beale, a pile-driving machine punched deep holes into the earth for the 227-room Hyatt Centric hotel. To the south at Front and Pontotoc, the ground is cleared for a 475-space parking garage and 232 apartments called The Landing Residences at One Beale.

The apartments, garage and hotel will be built simultaneously at a combined estimated cost of $150 million.

“When my dad first proposed this 30 to 40 years ago, he always saw Downtown as a magnetic place that brings people together,” developer Chance Carlisle said of his late father, Gene Carlisle.

HBG Designers Mark Weaver, FAIA and Josh Love

If all goes to schedule, the seven-story Hyatt Centric will open for Thanksgiving or Christmas in 2020 and the six-story apartments will start leasing in the first three months of 2021, Carlisle said before the ceremony.

The HBG Design architecture firm designed the Hyatt Centric “around music and the river,” Mark Weaver said. He is principal in charge and lead designer for the hotel project.

The final design is the fourth version that HBG Design has created over the years as developer Carlisle LLC wrestled with making the numbers work. “On the ground floor we opened the base up to the public and have it very active to the street and to the river,” Weaver said.

The ground floor is encased in glass: The hotel check-in desk will face Front, a lobby bar will be near the corner of Front and Beale, a restaurant will face Beale and the river and offer outdoor seating, and the ground floor’s south side will line the hotel’s outside pool and courtyard. A rooftop whisky bar will present expansive views of the river. Metal panels and lots of windows comprise the hotel’s exterior. But the windows will be positioned irregularly to mimic the look of musical notes on a music sheet. Colored, neon light will edge many of the windows facing Front and Beale streets. The colors can change, similar to the light installations on the Hernando DeSoto and Big River Crossing (Harahan) bridges. The idea is to carry the iconic neon from the Beale Street entertainment district toward the river, which now is festooned with its own colorful lights.

“At night I think there will be a real spectacular light show,” Weaver said of the window lights. “The light show will be set up to do whatever the river does, where the lights change color and they will move on the façade. Like the bridges.”

Lead Designer, Mark Weaver, Chance and Chase Carlisle

Hyatt Centric’s location at Front and Beale is “one of the most prominent sites in Memphis,” Weaver said. A major theme for the hotel is providing a launching point for guests to explore Memphis.

Carlisle LLC and Hyatt Hotels are partners in 33 Beale Street Hotel Co., the development entity for the hotel.

The Landing Residences apartments and parking deck will anchor the south side of the entire site, which generally is bounded by Riverside on the west, Beale on the north, Front on the east and Pontotoc on the south.

The apartments’ design will be “a very nice blend of old and new,” said Chris Kacena, design director of Studio Architects. The Atlanta-based firm designed the Landing Residences at One Beale.

“It’s trying to fit into the historic fabric of Downtown and be something fresh and exciting. So there’s a little bit of a blend of modern and traditional,” Kacena said.

The apartment buildings’ bricks will complement the neighborhood’s historic warehouse district. But the buildings also will feature large storefront openings and “big glass,” Kacena said.

The hotel will offer 14,000 square feet of meeting spaces, including the adaptive reuse of the neighboring historic Ellis Machine Shops building. The old business made propellers and other metal equipment for river vessels.

As recently as 14 months ago, preservationists were concerned that the development would mean demolition for the historic buildings. However, Chance Carlisle wound up working with Memphis Heritage and its executive director, June West.

West was even included among the speakers during the ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

“Chance is the only developer to put us on the dais with the other speakers,” West said. “Chance has endeared himself to me, Memphis Heritage and the community.”

Deni Reilly, chairman of the Downtown Memphis Commission, also expressed appreciation for One Beale’s historic preservation. “We thank Chance and his team for their leadership, especially in their willingness to consider the adaptive reuse of the historic Ellis Building,” Reilly told the crowd.

“One Beale is better, cooler and much more Memphis because of it and for that, we thank you,” she said.

An affiliate organization of the Downtown Memphis Commission, the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. four years ago gave One Beale property tax breaks for 20 years, which will save the developer a total of $48.3 million. The commission staff calculates that the development will still generate $11.7 million in tax revenue that Memphis and Shelby County would not receive without the construction.

The Center City Revenue Finance Corp. also approved contributing $10 million in public funds to build the parking garage.

“We see the progress,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the crowd at the ceremony. “We literally the see the renaissance all around us. Nineteen billion dollars in development in our area, most of which is in the city limits.”

One Beale occupies an iconic space in the heart of Memphis, Strickland said. “Gene Carlisle’s vision many years ago led to this moment. And, Chance, thank you very much for taking the reins and making it happen. It means a lot to Memphis, it means a lot to Downtown.”

Strickland joined the chorus for praising the project’s effort to save and adapt the historic Ellis buildings. “That’s what makes our developments so great in Memphis and so different than many other cities,” Strickland said. “We take our history to heart and we build upon it instead of always just knocking it down.”

One Beale is to eventually include a final phase, construction of an office tower near the corner of Beale and Riverside. But that construction is not expected to start until an anchor office tenant is identified.