The Sterick: “The Most Fabulous Building in Memphis”

In Downtown by Rebecca Phillips8 Comments

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Photograph by Khara Woods

What is the fate of the Sterick building? A renovated office building, a giant karaoke bar, trivia night theaters with a beer garden and hot tubs, and maybe a science research center with pretty telescopes. No.. we can’t answer that for you, but we can tell you a little about its past.

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Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library & Information Center

The Sterick building was of elegance in its prime years. It could claim itself as the tallest building in all of Tennessee from 1930 to 1957. The building stood 29 stories tall in radiant white (the first three floors made from granite and limestone) with a green tile roof. Inside, you could visit a barber shop, beauty parlor, bank, pharmacy, a stockbroker, and appease your appetite at a fine restaurant on the top floor.

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Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library & Information Center

But as most of our city residents know, the Sterick building is vacant and has been so since 1986. It isn’t the tallest building in Memphis and is covered in peeling yellow and brown paint from 1982, the year E.T. phoned home. It also likely hasn’t made a profit since 1958, when the Sterick sold for $3.8 million.

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Photographs by Khara Woods

Read more from Vance to learn a little more about this fascinating building.

Also, if you have a story about an experience you had at the Sterick or have an idea about its future please let us know! Contact us at memphistypehistory@gmail.com

Rebecca Phillips

I am a female born in the United States though I generally fear the border patrol. Buy me an ice cream cone and maybe I'll paint you something.

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Comments

  1. I see the Sterick Building out the window of my Main Street Apartment. It is beautiful. It is huge. It is sad. Seems a shame that such a beautiful thing is sitting vacant for many years.

  2. What a waste of space. Offices are rapidly becoming a thing from the past. I only work from my cube two days a week, and work the other three days from home. Times have changed so I imagine the downtown office era is a thing of the past. In Memphis, most office workers appear to work along the Poplar corridor from Perkins to the west part of Germantown.

    A major complication with the Sterick Building is that the land the building is on is owned by one entity, and the actually building is owned by AXA which acquired the building when the last owner defaulted on the mortgage. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but the building will become the property of the land owning family around 2025. The contract (I am no RE atty) calls for the building to be maintained. By looking at YouTube vids, and actually being allowed in the building when it was being inspected , I can tell you the property needs some serious work. It is really going to hit the fan when the transfer is due. Again, I am no RE expert, but if the contract was honored, just the cosmetic work would be well into eight figures. Bringing HVAC and electrical issues up to date – plus asbestos removal into the picture, well…….

    Demolition would be in the seven figures not including all the legal issues of the building being an historical landmark, so unless someone comes up with a brilliant idea, I see the building sitting empty indefinitely. Property is usually not redeveloped piecemeal, and a 29 story building is infinitely more risky to redevelop than several of the four to six story buildings being redeveloped downtown.

    On a positive close, I thought the Sears Building was also going to sit empty for years, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it redeveloped.

  3. I worked in the Sterick Bldg on the 18th floor for James N. Reddoch, a stock broker. I was there in the early 70s. I loved that building with it’s beautiful lobby and the elevator operators were great! I hate that this building has been allowed to deteriorate to this degree. It would have been a perfect multi-use building incorporating shops and apartments. It could be developed so individuals could work, live, and play in the same building. What a shame.

  4. Maybe the glory days will come again for this building. Growing up in the 60’s, I remember how the building was lit up for Christmas for like the other tall buildings in downtown. The lobby was, and still is, something to see, or at least it was five or so years ago when some maintenance guys were kind enough to let me poke around while they were working.

    One scenario I see happening is a deep pocket developer being given the building. I’ll betcha that AXA would like to be out of this property, and if they had a do over, they probably would not have repossessed the building. You know, the too big to fail thing. The Grossover family (hope I’m not butchering the name) would also like to be out of this albatross. The downtown Memphis office scene is all but dead, but the hip millennials (is there any other kind) could make some cool condos or apartments out of the vast amounts of empty space. Instead of the usually 800 to 2000 square foot condos or apartments, imagine 3000 square foot or larger living spaces. IMHO, there is no such thing as too much space.

    The old Tennessee Brewery and Sears Crosstown have come back from near death, so let’s all hope.

    I really admire the 20 and 30 somethings Memphians of today. When I was in my 20’s the cool place to live was in Hickory Hill. I feel so much shame.

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