|By Amos Maki, The Commercial Appeal,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 3, 2005 - When Gene Carlisle said he wanted a "wow building" where Beale Street meets Riverside Drive -- arguably one of the most important pieces of real estate in the city -- it wasn't just talk.
Carlisle, the Wendy's restaurant magnate of the Mid-South, is poised to develop the first phase of One Beale, a 27-story, $150 million condo/luxury hotel development that will redefine the Memphis skyline and Downtown living.
"Being at the foot of Beale Street and right on the river, it's the best spot in the city," said Andy Kitsinger, director of planning and development at the Center City Commission. "They'll have a free ticket to the Beale Street Music festival every year."
The tower will feature 168 hotel rooms and 159 luxury condos. The hotel rooms would occupy floors 5 through 10 of the building while the condos, which will range in price from $350,000 to $2 million, will finish out the tower.
"This is all about Memphis' future," said Carlisle, founder and chairman of Carlisle Corp., which owns 90 Wendy's restaurants with sales topping $120 million annually. "We've seen the city evolve, and this is about looking ahead and what Memphis can become. It's not about the last 50 years; it's about the next 50 years."
The first floor will hold a grand lobby, retail space, an upscale restaurant and a spa. There will be two floors dedicated to 75,000 square feet of Class A office space, and the fourth floor will be reserved for meeting and conference rooms.
Carlisle said he is in the final stage of negotiating a joint venture with a hotel chain and he expects to announce a deal within the next few weeks. He already is interviewing sales and marketing firms and general contractors.
"Unless we have grossly missed the residential piece, this deal is a go," said Carlisle. "We know we've got the right location, we think we've got the right product for it, and we think the market we're after is after a lifestyle and value that is above everything else."
The building design -- by Mark Weaver, Janet Smith-Haltom and Rob Jurbergs of Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group -- will go before the Center City Commission's Design and Review Board on Wednesday.
The design is reminiscent of projects found in more mature markets like New York City or Miami.
"Gene said it had to sing," said Smith-Haltom. "We think it does."
While Carlisle is joining a booming Downtown condo market -- with more than 1,000 condos under construction or in the works -- he is targeting the virtually untapped ultra-high-end segment.
According to Bologna Consultants, the average price for condos sold this year is $200,664. Between 2002 and this year, the average sale price for condos hovered between $151,504 and $225,101.
"We're going after something completely different," Carlisle said, referring to the $350,000-and-up condos.
But not without competition.
The Bryan Co. is developing The Horizon, a condo complex featuring two 16-story towers on Riverside Drive just south of the RiverTower at South Bluffs that will have units from $200,000 to $1 million.
That development prompted Carlisle to shorten the time to get to market.
"For a long time, we had all the time in the world to play with this thing because we didn't have anybody to take our customers away," he said.
To speed the project along, Carlisle changed some of his initial plans. Originally, the hotel was to be in a second, smaller tower, but the hotel chain wanted to be in the prime tower facing the river. Carlisle agreed.
Once the first phase is complete, Carlisle can move forward with the rest of the project, which will likely include a smaller hotel and condo tower on what are now parking lots on Beale at Wagner and Front.
That phase could bring the total cost of the development to more than $300 million.
HOW IT STACKS UP: At 27 stories and 313 feet, the condo/hotel tower at One Beale would be among the tallest buildings in Memphis. Here's how it would measure up:
--100 North Main: 37 stories, 430 feet
--One Commerce Square: 31 stories, 396 feet
--Sterick Building: 31 stories, 365 feet
--Clark Tower: 32 stories, 365 feet
--Morgan Keegan Tower: 23 stories, 341 feet
--First Tennessee building: 25 stories, 332 feet
Source: Memphis Public Library and Information Center
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