A crumbling, long-vacant hotel that has greeted I-55 travelers for years as they first enter Memphis will be demolished by September 1st, according to a consent order from the Shelby County Environmental Court.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland — flanked by Memphis City Council members, French Fort residents, and the building's owner Lauren Crews — made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon in the shadow of the boarded-up, five-story hotel that's situated just a couple blocks away from the National Ornamental Metal Museum.
"Our administration facilitated an agreement that will lead to its demolition. This has been an eyesore to the neighborhood and passers-by on I-55 for 30 years," Strickland said.
Crews said he purchased the property from an out-of-state owner several years ago because he didn't want to see a non-Memphian do anything undesirable with the property.
"I've never been a proud owner of this building. I purchased it to protect the neighborhood. I didn't want anyone to do anything with it that wouldn't be advantageous to the neighborhood," Crews said.
Crews owns quite a bit of land in the French Fort neighborhood, including the long-abandoned Marine Hospital that sits next door to the Metal Museum. Crews said he would eventually like to develop some of the abandoned properties, including the Marine Hospital, into new, mixed-use and residential property.
Crews had originally planned on reusing the old hotel building by fixing it up and turning it into new residential space. But he said the long-stalled Tennessee Department of Transportation Crump Boulevard/I-55 Interchange project has held up his ability to get financing for that project. After the hotel is demolished, Crews hopes to eventually develop the empty land.