Historic U.S. Marine Hospital will soon be renovated for apartments

By Published: January 29, 2019 12:42 PM CT

Lauren Crews this week applied for a construction permit to preserve and convert the historic U.S. Marine Hospital into apartments after 16 years of starts and stops, recession, recovery and plan changes.

If all goes according to schedule, the gutting of the three buildings on the river bluff at 360 Metal Museum Drive will start in March, renovation will begin in April or May and renters can start moving into the 71 units about a year later.

The property on 3.2 acres is expected to soon be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior appearance will be preserved.

LRK Architects designed the renovation and Montgomery Martin Contracts will do the construction.

“I’m passionate about restoring the building and being the one who can say, ‘Yeah, I saved that historically significant building,’” Crews said Tuesday.

“It’s a tough deal to do. It was more about being able to restore the building than the bottom line. But you have got to make money. Banks don’t loan you money unless you show a profit,” he said.

The building permit estimates the value of construction to be $12 million, but the full cost of the project is $18.7 million.

The project comprises three brick buildings: The main hospital of about 75,000 square feet and a maintenance structure of nearly 15,000 square feet, both built in the 1930s; and a 4,500-square-foot former nurses’ quarters that was built in the 1880s.

MICHELLE CORBET: Local developer plans to turn vacated U.S. Marine Hospital into apartments

The main hospital will have 60 apartments, the maintenance building will have seven apartments and the nurses' quarters building will have four apartments.

About half the units will be one-bedroom or studio apartments, most of the rest are two-bedroom units, and three apartments will have three bedrooms.

The rents will average $1.50 per square foot, with the units ranging from about 500 square feet to as much as 2,400 square feet.

Crews is splitting ownership of the development evenly with his brother, Hilliard Crews.

All the financing is secure except for negotiating some terms for historic tax credits, Crews said. The project received a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) that will save Crews $4.9 million total. The Downtown Memphis Commission’s Center City Development Corp. also is giving the project a $300,000 low-interest, development loan.

Crews has been trying to renovate the historic hospital since he bought it 16 years ago. Until now, his most significant restoration project has been preserving the 1840s plantation buildings of Heartwood Hall on Raleigh LaGrange Road in Piperton in southwest Fayette County. The antebellum estate is now a wedding venue.

He anticipates strong demand for the U.S. Marine Hospital apartments.

“Over the years, thousands of people have been through it," he said. "From what I hear on the street and from people calling me, we have a great deal of interest in it.”

In addition to river views from atop the bluff, the grounds offer atmosphere. Old oak trees cast the buildings in a deep shade.

“You don’t have trees like that Downtown,” Crews said. “With the shade, I tell people its five to 10 degrees cooler than in the rest of Downtown.”

The apartments’ amenities will include a swimming pool, secured perimeter, covered parking, courtyards, water features, storage, bike care stations and a pet wash.

The place has neighboring amenities, too, including the Metal Museum, Chickasaw Heritage Park and Crump Park.


Commercial Real Estate Historic Preservation Apartment Development
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.

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