In the past decade, Memphis has become a national leader in the trend of turning unloved spaces into modern hotspots. From the complete revamp of beloved Overton Square to the reopening of the Chisca Hotel, historic buildings and streets all around Memphis are being reimagined and brought back to life. Memphians by and large are coming together to rethink existing spaces, and Dr. Todd Richardson has been a trailblazer for all of it.
By day, students know Dr. Richardson as the Benjamin Rawlins professor of European Renaissance Art History at the University of Memphis. But to many people around Memphis, he’s better known as the co-founder of Crosstown Arts and Co-Leader of Crosstown Concourse: a 90-year old Sears Roebuck distribution center that sat dormant since 1993 and was reopened in August of 2017. Since 2010, he has co-led the effort to transform the historic, 1.5 million-square-foot Sears Crosstown building into a vertical urban village anchored in arts, education, and healthcare. And throughout the process, he has become a beacon of community, the arts, and history all at once.
Now known as Crosstown Concourse, the $210 million project is 96% leased and already has had a direct and indirect economic impact of $330 million. For the better part of seven years, Dr. Richardson became a champion of the massive undertaking that was resurrecting Crosstown, inspiring business leaders, community members, and most importantly, the surrounding neighborhood to embrace and rally behind the unfamiliar vision of a vertical urban village.
Today, Crosstown Concourse is a thriving community of artists, retailers, and organizations with overlapping missions and goals, all working in unison to create one of the most vibrant pockets in the city of Memphis. Guided by Dr. Richardson, the project has garnered local, national, and even international attention, being shortlisted as one of 15 finalists and the only United States finalist recognized as one of the most exciting adaptive reuse of space projects in the world by Architectural Review. Concourse also recently earned the distinction of being the largest LEED Platinum Certified historic Adaptive Reuse in the world, which celebrates its environmentally sustainable design.
A former Fulbright Scholar and Samuel H. Kress Fellow, Todd has lectured and published internationally on topics ranging from art and architecture to religion and politics. He currently serves on the board of directors for Crosstown High and remains an active example of the spirit of convergence, originality, and imagination in Memphis.
To learn more about how an artist, an academic, and a businessman came together to bring the project to life, watch his TEDx talk, “The Dilemma of Discovery“.