Historic Universal Life Insurance Building Gets New Tenants

Local News

The Universal Life Insurance building in downtown Memphis has been vacant for decades, but possibly by the end of the year, the historic building could see new life. 

The building was constructed in the 1940’s at the corner of now Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Danny Thomas Boulevard. It was the headquarters of the fourth largest African American owned life insurance company in the country.  The architects of the building were also black constructing an “Egyptian Revival” style building.

This one time symbol for black economic prosperity will soon be revived in a way that will continue that rich heritage.  

“It’s at a key intersection, corner of MLK and Danny Thomas. There are so may development opportunities that will arise just by activating this long dormant structure,” said the city of Memphis’ Director of Housing and Community Development Paul Young.

The building will be renovated, and African-American owned and operated Self and Tucker Architects.

“Our goal is to finish it by the end of the year,” said Jimmie Tucker who is one of the founding principals of the architecture firm. 

The city of Memphis will also take up office space inside the historic building as well, creating a one-stop shop for small minority and women-owned businesses.

“It’s central in downtown area where businesses can have easy access to the multiple services offered from the city,” said Joann Massey who is the director of the Office of Business Diversity compliance. 

Massey said offices such as the Shelby County Trustees Office and the City Court Clerk will have satellite offices in the building as well, so minority business owners don’t have to travel far to get everything they need to get started.

Also, Sweet Potato Baby Cafe with Chef Aryen Moore-Alston will also be a tenant in the building. The Food Network star and a small minority business owner will take up space in the lower level of the building.  

“As you know when we look at other projects like Chisca downtown concourse having that restaurant gives us that opportunity for people that work in the building to come together and also some people in the neighborhood,” said Tucker.   

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