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Archimania buys Front Street site to develop building for its offices, additional tenant

Friday, March 5, 2010

Archimania buys Front Street site to develop building for its offices, additional tenant

Memphis Business Journal - by Michael Sheffield

Despite a floundering economy and an even shakier local architecture scene, Archimania is moving forward with plans to build a new four-story office at 52 S. Front where a previously planned 12-story condominium project never got off the ground. The new office building would total 12,500 square feet and is budgeted at $2 million, with construction tentatively scheduled to start this fall. It should be completed by October 2011, says Todd Walker, a principal with Memphis-based Archimania. Walker says after the $10 million condominium project fell through, Archimania purchased the land. The condo project, designed by Archimania, was being developed by Martin Pantik, a real estate broker with Kendall Haney Realty Group. Pantik paid $150,000 for the land in 2005. According to information recorded with the Shelby County Property Assessor, Archimania purchased the property for $125,000. The Landmarks Commission took issue with the height of the condo project, but it was eventually approved by the City Council. However, financing for the project could never be finalized. Walker says Archimania is currently putting together a package to submit to the commission. “The only objection to the previously submitted design was the height of the building at 12 stories, not the architecture,” Walker says. “Seeing that the architecture is stylistically the same, we feel extremely confident they will have no objection to the four-story scheme.” Walker’s partner, Barry Yoakum, says the design process is aiming for LEED platinum status for the building. The project’s contractor, Grinder, Taber & Grinder, Inc., completed the one of the first LEED certified projects in West Tennessee, an Independent Bank branch in Germantown. Archimania is currently on a month-to-month lease for its 4,000-square-foot office on South Main. Office lease rates Downtown average $16.39 per square foot. Brett Grinder, vice president and principal of Grinder, Taber & Grinder, says the project will make use of a piece of property in the heart of Downtown on an underutilized block. The site is a gravel parking area located in the Historic Cotton Row District, but he says the historical implications of the project shouldn’t be an issue. “They have a great handle on how to integrate their building into the area,” Grinder says. “Their design work will carry the day on that.” Archimania plans to occupy one of the 3,750-square-foot floors of the building, and Walker and Yoakum say they are close to a commitment from a tenant who will occupy the other floor. The first floor will include shared receptionist space and conference rooms both companies can use. The design includes six parking spaces beneath the building. The firm is confident it can attain financing for the project, and with construction costs being low, this is actually a good time to build, Yoakum says. The LEED certification, while adding around $100,000 to the initial construction cost, will actually cut the company’s overhead by potentially reducing its utility bills by 50%, not to mention the fact a rent-paying tenant will also be occupying space. He says the firm is also reclaiming and recycling a lot of materials and furniture from its current office into the new one. “The last thing we want to do is do a building that adds to our overhead when we want to reduce our overhead,” Yoakum says. “This isn’t just talk, it’s now starting to pay off, maybe.”