Ted Evanoff, USA TODAY NETWORK Tennessee Published 10:00 a.m. CT Sept. 18, 2017 | Updated 10:41 a.m. CT Sept. 18, 2017
Backers of 100 North Main could renovate the empty skyscraper to serve as the Memphis Cook Convention Center’s primary hotel.
Memphis city officials have discussed a hotel conversion with the New York investment firm now in control of the office building, said Doug McGowen, chief operations officer for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
Turning the vacant tower into a hotel would bring a prominent Downtown building back into use and add needed hotel rooms.
Memphis Cook officials say the convention trade immediately needs 600 to 900 more hotel rooms and will have a more pressing need in 2019 when the proposed $100 million-plus renovation is completed on the exhibition center at 255 North Main.
McGowen said the “capital partners” in control of the office tower loan have “expressed interest in redeveloping” the property and engaged in “robust” discussions about putting a possible hotel in the building.
“We are interested in having another full-service convention center hotel, McGowen said, referring to the Strickland administration.
The 600-room Sheraton faces Memphis Cook but is considered too small to alone handle the bigger conventions sought by the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau.
An investment firm named IMH Memphis LLC bought 100 North Main in 2015 but defaulted on the loan used to pay for the purchase. In June, New York-based Townhouse Management Co.’s THM Memphis LLC took control of that loan.
New uses for the building could include a 600-room hotel and also apartments and offices, said Jennifer Oswalt, chief executive of the Downtown Memphis Commission, a public agency that provides financial assistance for redevelopment projects.
Construction of a parking garage and a possible office building beside 100 North Main are being considered. Asked to rank the likelihood of a hotel going into the office tower, Oswalt said six on a scale of one to 10.
IMH Memphis disclosed plans for 171 hotel rooms and 254 apartments in the tower but never went ahead. IMH Memphis executives Eli Freiden and John Bartle were also active in a bankrupt senior citizen development in Tampa, Fla. IMH said $60 million to $70 million in needed financing for the Memphis project was unavailable.
Townhouse Management chief executive Mitchel Maidman’s late father Richard H.M. Maidman grew the firm into what New York magazines say is one of Manhattanâ€™s largest real estate dynasties.
IMH defaulted on $2.8 million loan provided by five firms including Maidman’s THM Funding; Shadow Tree Income Fund B; Conrad Partners; Keiter Group and Brous Memphis, public records show.
The office tower, completed in 1965, is the tallest structure in Memphis at 38 stories but has been completely vacant for several years and is said to require extensive renovations. It stands a block away from Memphis Cook across Civic Center Plaza.
Oswalt said 100 North Main’s renovation could spur new developments and improvements that diminish the sense of a long commute such as hotel-to-convention-hall buses and more retail stores in and around 100 North Main.
Efforts launched last year by Denver hotel consultant Robert Swerdling to build a 600-room convention hotel on city property on North Front apparently have been stalled by objections raised to development on the site by Friends of the Riverfront. The civic group has threatened a lawsuit in support of an early 19th Century deed barring private businesses on what was described in the 1820s as the promenade.