Design board approves FedEx Logistics' Downtown HQ

By Published: June 06, 2019 6:06 PM CT

The Downtown Memphis Commission Design Review Board delivered a mostly smooth approval of FedEx Logistics’ redesign of the Gibson Guitar Factory into its new headquarters on Wednesday.

“I have a little bit of difficulty with the front of the building,” DRB board member and principal planner for Memphis and Shelby County Brian Bacchus said during the meeting.

While Bacchus recognized the front of the building has historically faced FedExForum, he would like to see just as much of a presence on the prominent corner of B.B. King and Martin Luther King boulevards.

The comment came as representatives with project architect Looney Ricks Kiss were informing the board that FedEx’s branding department is still reviewing the designs and placement of signage.

FedEx Logistics will return to the Design Review Board at a later date with a separate application for signage, public art and enhanced architectural lighting.

Despite the apprehension about signage, the board unanimously approved the design to unify all elevations of the former guitar factory with brick, windows and black steel.      

“No one here is from FedEx today?” asked board chair and urban planner Ray Brown. “Well, that’s too bad because I wanted to compliment them again for relocating Downtown.”

One sign that did get approved was a 28-foot-long double-faced projecting sign requested for the $14.2 million reuse of the Memphis College of Art graduate school into the 62-key Arrive Hotel, nearing completion on South Main Street.   

“It’s a slight variation from the sign code,” Ellery Ammons, Downtown Memphis Commission development coordinator, said as part of a presentation to the board. “With that being said, it’s not alone. South Main has become known for its large projecting signs.”

The Arrive Hotel sign will continue the neon trend seen on historic signs like the Orpheum Theatre and newer examples such as Old Dominick Distillery.  

“We see this as an extension of sign culture in Downtown and Memphis as a whole,” Ammons said. “At this location, it has the opportunity to serve as a landmark at the end of the road where South Main turns.”   

The board also approved designs for the first phase of what the DMC and property owner PGK Properties hope will be a landmark for the Edge District – The Ravine, a linear urban park being created on an underutilized rail spur under Madison Avenue.

The first phase includes basic infrastructure needs to ready the site as well as a retail plaza and entrance on Union Avenue, a court for food trucks and an event space near Madison Avenue.  

“We are working very hard to build out the Edge District and plan for the future – not where we are now, but where we are headed,” said Ethan Knight, vice president of development at Development Services Group, representing PGK. “You look and see how far the Edge has come in the past two years alone. … This project is key to redefining the Edge District and what it means to create a new public amenity.”  

In other news:

The DRB got hung up on an existing awning and a proposed roll-up garage door.

DMC staff recommends the metal blue awning at the BAM Thrift Store on Madison be removed, but property owners may not have the funds to correct what is underneath, so they must return to the board for approval of another option if the awning cannot be removed.

The owners of 150 Madison, next to the Brass Door, are proposing to install a roll-up garage door as the entrance to a ground-floor coffee shop, but the board’s approval is contingent on more detailed renderings.

And the design to turn a historic city of Memphis mounted police station at 198 Barksdale into office space and apartments received unanimous approval.   


Fedex Logistics Downtown Memphis Commission
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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