MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A historic downtown Memphis building, standing for more than 100 years, is under construction and could become a parking garage.
Crews began work on the Pier Restaurant, 100 Wagner Place, last week and the City doesn't know anything about it. The restaurant has been closed for about two years, and construction crews say the owner, a family from New York, wants to make the restaurant a parking garage and put condos next door.
Even workers emptying out the Pier building asked abc24.com what was going on with their building.
President of the Downtown Memphis Commission, Paul Morris, says, "Usually I hear about major projects going forward in Downtown." However, this could be one of the quietest projects in downtown Memphis, "If I don't hear about it then the planning director for the City hears about it, and I understand he hasn't heard about it," Morris says.
Once abc24.com contacted Morris about the construction at the Pier restaurant, he had people looking into it all day. "Usually if there's a permit pulled for construction or to go through landmarks then I'll hear about it." Morris says, "I've checked with everyone who works here and no one here has heard of it. We're just as curious as you and your viewers are about what's going on."
Two people who claim they do know what's going on: the owner of the Butcher Shop restaurant, which shares the building that extends to Front Street, and the man who owns the building next door, Jim Grivich.
Grivich says, "Rather than turning it into another derelict building they're going to try to make the area better by putting up condos and a parking garage, I have no problem, it just helps the real estate."
Grivich and construction crews confirm the building's owner wants to turn the wood front area of the restaurant into a parking garage and the brick part of the building into condos. The big problem, according to the Downtown Memphis Commission, is they're historic landmarks. "We're trying to run down the details of what the plan is," Morris says, "At a minimum just to make sure that whatever's proceeding is legal and doesn't violate any historical guidelines."
Grivich says any movement is good movement, "It's either that or the hobos and bums are sleeping on the patio. It's definitely for the good."
There are no construction permits on the fence outside the restaurant. Morris says he's excited to see movement on the property but is going to make sure that movement is legal. Morris says the Commission has a call in to the property's owner.