Standing on the sidewalk outside the crumbling and boarded-up Nineteenth Century Club, attorneys Steve Mulroy and Webb Brewer announced that the plaintiff in an appeal to save the stately historic home at 1433 Union has decided to withdraw. That means the building's owners, the Lin family, may go forward with any plans they have for the property.
"We continue to believe we had a strong case legally, but without a buyer to purchase and preserve the property, any legal victory would be a hollow victory," Mulroy said.
The plaintiff in the case is a former member of the Nineteenth Century Club who believes the club's vote to auction the property violated its bylaws because the entire membership wasn't notified about the planned sale. The property was sold at auction after a vote was held by some members of the Nineteenth Century Club. The club's president Lynn Heathcott donated the money from the sale to the Children's Museum of Memphis. Heathcott has contended that the club could not afford the repairs on the property, which was in violation of Memphis Fire Department code, leaving no other option than to sell it at auction.
Chancery Court Judge Walter Evans declared the sale of the property had been properly conducted, but the plaintiff appealed. Memphis Heritage had been helping promote public awareness around the plight of the building, which they believe the Lins intend to demolish to make way for a strip mall with a Chinese restaurant. The Lins currently own New Hunan Restaurant on Park, Kublai Khan Crazy Mongolian Stir Fry on Airways, and Red Fish Sushi Asian Bistro in Lakeland. The Nineteenth Century Club is one of the few historic properties left on shopping center-heavy Union Avenue.
When the plaintiff appealed, there were two potential buyers who had offered to purchase the property from the Lins. One was from Nashville, and the other was from California. But both deals have since fallen through. Memphis Heritage members had raised $100,000 to pay a bond for the appeal.
"We didn't want to put our donor money at risk when there wasn't a clear-cut idea for a buyer," said Memphis Heritage president Joey Hagen.
Mulroy said the $100,000 would be distributed back to the Memphis Heritage donors.