Tennessee Brewery Redevelopment Will Include New Building and Parking Garage 

Brewery rehabilitation project will anchor new Brewery District.

Plans for redeveloping Downtown's Tennessee Brewery building into apartments also now include building a six-story residential structure adjacent to it called the Wash House and a four-story parking garage across the street.

All of the buildings are tied together in a new development project called the Brewery District. 

Billy Orgel, a cell phone tower developer and Shelby County Schools board member, purchased the long-abandoned Tennessee Brewery building last year for $825,000. 

Prior to the purchase, the building seemed destined for the wrecking ball. Leasing agent James Rasberry said last year that the building's previous owner would have had the building torn down by the end of the summer 2014 if no one stepped in to save it.

Orgel said Tuesday that last summer's "Brewery Untapped" event, a six-week, pop-up beer garden in the Brewery's courtyard, "really opened my eyes" to the possibilities with the building.  

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks

Since the purchase, Orgel has said that his plans for the building included a mix of residential and commercial spaces and that the plan would cost around $25 million. He reasserted that vision last Tuesday to members of the Downtown Memphis Commission's (DMC) Center City Revenue Finance Corporation (CCRFC) and introduced the two new elements of his plan.

The Tennessee Brewery building will be renovated into 58 residential units on seven floors, a gym, and a lobby with a total of more than 50,000 square feet of rentable space.

The Wash House will be built on the property adjacent to the Brewery's north side. That six-story building will have 90 residential units and a total of more than 72,000 square feet of rentable space.

Orgel's plans call for a four-story parking garage with about 348 parking spaces to be built right across Tennessee Street from the Brewery and the Wash House.

Orgel predicted the project would be ready for potential tenants in late 2016. 

During the construction process, the project will create 307 jobs and have a total economic impact of $43.8 million, Orgel said. Once it's open, the Brewery District would bring 216 new residents to Downtown, create 51 new jobs, and have an annual economic impact of $4.9 million.

Orgel presented the project to the CCRFC Tuesday — only as an introduction. He did not come to the board asking for financial assistance, but said he and his partners likely would ask them for help down the road. The project would, in fact, take a "leap of faith by a lot of people," he said. 

Orgel repeatedly told the CCRFC board members that he loved the building and his return on the project will be in more than just dollars.

"If you want to just make money, go to Collierville or Cordova and build a strip center," Orgel said. "This isn't easy work. You have to be an entrepreneur and a bit foolish on top of it."

A documentary on the Brewery building and its history is in the works by local producer/director Brian D. Manis. 

Orgel said Tuesday that a production company with the Discovery Channel approached him recently about filming a show inside the building. The producers were interested in exploring the building's haunted, paranormal history.

"So, we said that we're not interested," Orgel said. "We're not really sure if anything ever even happened in there."

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