Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Sterick Building

image from Wikipedia

The Sterick Building -"the Queen of Memphis"- is an abandoned 29-story office building in downtown Memphis. It opened in 1930 and at the time was the tallest building in the South. It's still one of the tallest around, being the 5th tallest in Memphis today. It's said to be the tallest empty building in the state, vacant since the 1980s. It is currently boarded up and accessible publicly only to urban explorers willing to trespass illegally. That lets me out.

Wikipedia says that it it:
featured a white stone spire topped with a green tile roof; its own bank, pharmacy, barber shop and beauty parlor; and stockbrokers' offices. The first three floors were made from granite and limestone. From the lobby, which was said to “rival[s] the beauty of a Moorish castle,” its eight high-speed elevators ferried the building's 2,000+ workers and guests to the upper floors, including the Regency Room restaurant on the top floor
The Memphis Flyer "Ask Vance" column notes "... a cluster of chandeliers cost more than $1,000 each." Wow!

It's in an odd legal position, as the building is not owned by the same people who own the land under it. The land is on a 99-year lease and is owned by the Grosvenor family. The building itself is owned by a group in Atlanta. The land lease expires in 2028 (or 2025 depending on which website you believe). I've read somewhere that ownership of the building will revert to the land owners at that time and that redevelopment before then would be highly unlikely because of that.

from Wikipedia:
The original lease of land for the property, dating from the late 1920s, required the $1,500 monthly payment to be paid in gold coin “of standard weight and fineness or its equivalent.” An unsuccessful 1975 lawsuit by the land owners sought to recalculate the rent at the then-current price of gold, or roughly $13,500 per month.
When The Daughter and I were downtown recently, she took this photo of the exterior from across the street on the southwest side:

I got some photos of the murals painted on the boards covering the ground floor windows:

This building is such a treasure and such an important part of the skyline that I hope redevelopment efforts will be successful once the ownership issues are resolved. If the Chisca Hotel property and Sears Crosstown can be successful, then surely there's hope for The Queen of Memphis.


  1. Too bad that what sounds like such an attractive building is just standing there, deteriorating. Hopefully, someone will take it on, and hopefully, it will become publically accessible.

    1. Yes, it's a shame. It's a very tall building, but I've heard the floors don't have exceptionally high ceilings and that installing central heat/cooling will be a challenge. I trust they'll figure something out.

  2. Putting a working HVAC System in a building that large will be a challenge, but it is doable. Modern systems like ductless split systems with variable refrigerant and chilled beam can work in tight spaces.

    Another idea that may make the space easier to take advantage of and lease out as premium offices or condos would be to remove some floors and make some areas in the interior of the building high-ceiling loft spaces. Steps would have to be taken to replace the load-bearing responsibility of the removed floors, but with enough columns and support attached to the skeleton of the building, it should be possible. This would give a architects and engineers the freedom to design more traditional HVAC systems for certain floors, and again, bring in higher rents for parts of the building.

    The problem is that, no matter if the technologies are available to do these things, they will cost a lot of money. No one has incentive to shell that out until the land-lease and ownership situations are finally resolved.