- After being left empty for nearly two decades, the Sears Crosstown building in Memphis has been transformed into a "vertical village."
- Sears occupied the building for nearly 70 years before it was forced to close its retail store and distribution center.
- The transformed structure, known as Crosstown Concourse, honors the communal spirit of the old building while introducing a mixed-used environment of commercial, retail, and residential space.
For nearly 70 years, diners and shoppers flocked to the Sears Crosstown building in Memphis, a 640,000 square feet complex anchored by a Sears retail store and distribution center.
With its art-deco exterior and suburban location, the building signified the peak era of retail, when customers would flock to the space for hands-on shopping experiences or order from Sears catalogs.
By 1993, the building that had stood tall during the Great Depression and three major wars was entirely empty. Sears had shut down both the retail store and distribution center as demand for mail orders declined.
The abandoned structure remained untouched for nearly two decades before a non-profit arts organization pioneered its renaissance. The result, a mixed-use center called Crosstown Concourse, offers a "vertical village" of commercial, retail, and residential space.
Take a look inside the transformed building, which is up for a $50,000 award for excellence in urban design.
The Sears Crosstown building opened in 1927 to around 35,000 people.
In its prime, the building’s distribution center received tens of thousands of catalog orders per day. Starting in the 1930s, Sears became known for its Christmas catalog, or Wish Book, which contained hundreds of pages of bargain items.
When the building was abandoned in 1993, the retail giant left behind old television sets, record players, and name tags.
The new developers also found time-sheets and an old menu listing Memphis classics like Barbeque ribs and cole slaw.
While the building stood empty, the Crosstown neighborhood became more urban.
The neighborhood is located about two miles outside downtown Memphis, making it a natural extension of the city center. By 2010, however, there were still only a few businesses and studios in the area.
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