A building constructed in the 1920s is back in prominence in 2008. The Residences at the Greenstone, at the corner of Poplar Avenue and North Waldran Boulevard, has been renovated as a condo development after eight decades as an apartment building.
The Greenstone has an elder sibling that you may have heard of: the Pink Palace Mansion. Both the Greenstone and the Pink Palace were built by architect Hubert T. McGee.
The Greenstone was erected in 1927. It gets its name, naturally, from the color of the stone it was built of. In the book Memphis: An Architectural Guide, by Eugene J. Johnson and Robert D. Russell Jr., it is noted, "The stone, quarried in Ohio, had been used in a large house built on the site in 1890. There was enough of this unusual material to cover the street facades of the new apartments."
Blackstar Capital Partners bought the Greenstone apartments a year ago. Principals Tobey Price Hubbard and Steven Alan Weisman say they made retaining the history of the building the guiding principle in their project. Apart from keeping the exterior stone, of course, features include the original doors and door hardware, "wavy" glass in the windows, and 18-inch-deep cast-iron soaking tubs. The pièce de résistance may be the Greenstone's main entryway, which restores the chandelier and magnificent carved mahogany staircase. The staircase dates back over a century, to the mansion that preceded the apartments on the property.
The vision of the 1920s is carried throughout the Greenstone with touches that hearken back to the spirit of the time, even if they actually date to our own age. Large kitchens have been appointed with open cabinetry with glass-front doors and ball-leg supports. Counters are marble slab rather than the currently in vogue granite, because that's what Jay Gatsby's contemporaries did. Faucets are bridge-style. Windows can be raised from the bottom and lowered from the top, a common feature before central heat and air rendered it charming but obsolete.
That's not to say technological advances aren't put to good use in the Greenstone. The building has been fitted with all the cables and wires this modern age stipulates. Appliances are stainless steel, of course. Units have front-loading washer/dryers. All lights are on dimmer switches. Hey, Gatsby would've done the same if those things were around back then. He would've cranked up Duke Ellington on his iPod, if given the chance.
Again from Memphis: An Architectural Guide: "The apartments themselves provided quite spacious living quarters with remarkably ample storage, in an area that had been dominated by large single-family houses." Rooms in the Greenstone are huge. They were built when furniture was massive. The master bedrooms can comfortably accommodate an armoire, king-size bed, and dresser. Living rooms are ready for whatever couches, chairs, tables, bookcases, and entertainment centers you want to throw in them.
The Greenstone is composed of three three-story buildings, with six units in each. No unit shares a sidewall with neighbors; because of that, there's a lot of natural light coming in from windows on three of the four walls. High ceilings (up to 10 feet) give all that light some room.
"We didn't have to do much to the outside, so we were able to spend our money on the inside," Hubbard says. "We were able to focus on the details."
Hubbard and Weisman are the Greenstone's owners, developers, and general contractors. The decided everything — from how they philosophically and financially approached the project to paint color, flooring, and landscaping.
The Greenstone was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and Blackstar worked with Memphis Heritage to ensure that the building was restored properly. Materials from the historic building were recycled, such as slate tiles from the old roof repurposed as flooring in a sunroom. About 25 mature oak and pine trees — some of them 80 feet tall — have been preserved on the grounds. From the luxury skylights in the penthouse units, you're right in the trees.
The neighborhood drew Hubbard and Weisman to the building. Sitting at the imaginary crossroads between downtown, Midtown, and the Medical District, the Greenstone is in the middle of a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.
Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is in the midst of a $327 million expansion project two blocks away. (The economic impact of the expansion alone is estimated to be $1.2 billion.) Add the developments at University Place, Legends Park, FedEx Family House, and UT-Baptist Research Park to the Cleveland/Poplar mixed-use project, and you've got over $1 billion invested in a one-mile radius.
Units at the Greenstone are selling now, and the entire project will be substantially complete in two to three months, Hubbard says. Prices range from $165,000 for two-bedroom, one-bath units to $335,000 for the three-bedroom, two-bath, one-sunroom penthouse. The Greenstone's being offered by Downtown Condo Connection (399-8500) and Kendall Haney Realty Group (725-1968). ■
Residences at the Greenstone
1116-1118 Poplar Avenue and
200 N. Waldran Blvd.