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

By Published: November 07, 2018 5:35 PM CT

Like most old or abandoned buildings, some say the vacated U.S. Marine Hospital is haunted, but that’s not stopping a local developer from pursuing plans to renovate the historic building.

Lauren T. Crews has had several ideas for redeveloping the property since purchasing it in the early 2000s. This time, he’s planning to partner with his brother to turn the vacated halls and grounds into market-rate apartments.

Crews is currently the sole owner, but plans to split ownership 50-50 with his brother Hilliard Crews, founder of Shelby Group International, a manufacturer and worldwide distributor of industrial gloves, safety glasses and other safety garments.

Lauren Crews bought the buildings in 2003 for $410,000, according to the latest deeds on file with the Shelby County Register, but has sold and rebought interest over the years as he’s tried to revitalize the property.  

In 2010, Crews planned to renovate the property into condominiums, but the project was put on hold due to the economic downturn.

In 2016, Crews attempted to partner with a Nashville-based company to convert the buildings into a low-income housing project, but abandoned those plans anticipating opposition from the neighborhood and the nearby National Ornamental Metal Museum.   

Now, Crews plans to spend $18.7 million flipping the historic compound into 71 market-rate apartments with amenities including a secured perimeter, in-ground swimming pool, covered parking, courtyards, water features, storage, bike care stations and a pet wash.

The old U.S. Marine Hospital is located at 360 Metal Museum Drive, next to the National Ornamental Metal Museum, in the French Fort area of downtown Memphis. It is surrounded by Crump Park and Chickasaw Heritage Park. 

The developers anticipate the views of the Mississippi River, the retreat-like atmosphere of the grounds and the nearby parks will attract pet owners and those who are into fitness.

Crews is seeking the maximum 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) incentive from the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) affiliate Center City Revenue Finance Corp. board.

Due to its blighted state, the property would see a 1,632 percent increase in annual city and county taxes during the 20-year PILOT term, for a cumulative total of $1.2 million.

With the PILOT, Crews will save about $246,000 in taxes each year, or $4.9 million over the 20-year term.   

Crews also plans to apply for a $300,000 development loan from the DMC’s Center City Development Corp. board and use Federal Historic Tax Credits to help finance the project. The entire property is being added to the National Historic Register.

Getting the $300,000 development loan on top of the PILOT would be a policy exception, but DMC staff supports the request due to the historic and architectural significance of the property.

The Crews brothers are seeking a $9 million development loan, likely from Iberia Bank.

The architect listed in the proposal is LRK. The general contractor is listed as Montgomery Martin Inc.

If all incentives are approved, developers plan to start construction in 2019 with an approximate 13-month completion.  

Originally built in the 1880s, the U.S. Marine Hospital offered medical services for workers who were injured while working on U.S. waterways.

The nurse’s quarters is the only original building on the site. The main hospital and maintenance buildings were built in the late 1930s.

The property was used most recently as the headquarters for the National Guard.  

The Marine Hospital has been listed by the Tennessee Preservation Trust as one of the Top 10 most endangered historically significant buildings in the state.


U.S. Marine Hospital Lauren T. Crews Hilliard Crews National Ornamental Metal Museum
Michelle Corbet

Michelle Corbet

Michelle Corbet covers business for The Daily Memphian. Prior to, she was a reporter at the Memphis Business Journal. A native Memphian and University of Memphis graduate, Michelle covered business in Conway, Arkansas after college. Michelle got her start covering business as an intern at The Commercial Appeal.

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