Center for Independent Living moves to Clark Tower

By Updated: October 11, 2018 4:00 AM CT | Published: October 10, 2018 4:48 PM CT

The Memphis Center for Independent Living has just moved from its street-level headquarters in Midtown to the eighth floor of the 34-story Clark Tower in East Memphis.

The space at 5100 Poplar is far more polished and costs more per square foot to lease, but it is one-sixth as large so the move is a money-saver.

The center not only advocates to make public facilities and transit more accessible for anyone with disabilities, it promotes housing for the disabled and teaches skills that allow for more independence.

“Our mission is to facilitate the full integration of people with disabilities into the full aspects of life,’’ said Sandi Klink, executive director.

She and her staff of six on Wednesday were still settling into the four-room office suite with south-facing views. Boxes and crates were stacked on floors and desks.

The leader of the nonprofit organization acknowledges that in some ways the new address won’t be as accessible to the people for whom it advocates.

At its former office in a worn-down strip center at 1633 Madison Ave., 15 parking spaces are available right out the front door.

At Clark Tower, there’s an attached 2,000-space parking structure, a journey to the lobby and an elevator ride.

At the Midtown site, a logo and large sign – “Memphis Center for Independent Living’’ – still hang over the now-empty office across from Cash Saver grocery.

At Clark Tower, the only identification is in the touch-screen, electronic directory in the lobby and the small door sign outside Suite 810.

The former office totaled 6,100 square feet; the Clark Tower suite encompasses just over 1,000 square feet.

But the new challenges don’t mean the move was unwise.

The center has operated out of the Midtown strip center for 14 years – and 18 years before that just around the corner on Angelus.  The organization had to foot the annual property tax bill for the space it leased in addition to paying rent and utilities.

Last winter, the tax bill skyrocketed 10 times what it normally is, from about $600 to about $6,000, Klink said. The cause:  The rising property values in Midtown and along Madison.

The center’s budget of $363,894 is down from years past when the organization had up to 14 staff members. One reason is the end of a five-year, $36,000 annual grant from a Great Recession stimulus program.

Besides saving money, the center anticipates other advantages with the move to smaller space in Clark Tower.

The office tower is more central to sprawling Memphis than Midtown, and should be closer to more people it serves, Klink said. Clark Tower is also on a major MATA bus line, which is important considering that many people with disabilities use public transit.

But the relative inaccessibility – being in somewhat anonymous space on the eighth floor – will be an impetus for the center’s staff to get out of the office and into the community.

“We will do a lot more out in the community,’’ Klink said. “We’ll have consumers meet us at the library or coffee shop or wherever. They don’t necessarily have to come here.’’

The Clark Tower property managers have done several things to accommodate the Memphis Center for Independent Living. They repeated in Braille the company’s name on the door sign.

They also replaced the office’s doorknobs with levers.

“They are more accessible, especially for someone with limited hand use,’’ Klink said of door levers. “You can use an elbow or push down.’’

Two of Clark Towers main entrances – on the east and west – have automatic doors that open with the push of a button.

“We’re working with them a bit on the parking garage,’’ she said. “There’s not quite as many accessible spaces as we would have thought. That’s something they want to work with us on as we settle in more.’’

All in all, Clark Tower “has been very accommodating’’ to the center, Klink said.


Nonprofit Commercial Real Estate Clark Tower
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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