The Commercial Appeal
New chapter opens for Universal Life building
Renovation is a second chance to aid community
A beacon of black business from segregation through the civil rights era, Memphis’ iconic Universal Life Insurance building is ready to shine again.
Owners and architects Juan Self and Jimmie Tucker are closing in on completion of a $6.2 million renovation intended to create a showcase of history and sustainability and a collection of resources dedicated to growing disadvantaged businesses.
The project’s completion comes nearly 95 years after Universal Life’s founding, 17 years after the building fell vacant, and a dozen years after black architects Self and Tucker bought the landmark.
Self+Tucker Architects and the City of Memphis Business Development Center, a one-stop shop for small businesses and entrepreneurs, are expected to move into 480 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. this spring.
“We’re very pleased with how it’s all coming together, especially with it being a public-private partnership with the City of Memphis,” Tucker said.
Visitors to the building will get a chance to experience the past, by seeing historic elements incorporated in the design and by viewing a history display developed by Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation.
Dr. Joseph E. Walker, with the support of other black business leaders, founded Universal Life on Beale Street in 1923 as a company “dedicated to improving the economic condition of people of color,” according to the display.
The company, led by Walker and later his son A. Maceo Walker, helped start Tri-State Bank and other initiatives to advance African-Americans in business, housing and education.
The Walkers turned to Nashvillebased McKissack and McKissack, one of the nation’s first AfricanAmerican-owned architecture firms, to design a building at what was then Linden and Wellington. It opened in 1949.
The Egyptian Revival style design, featuring fluted columns, a winged
The increase came despite spending an additional $140 million on variable compensation “due to sharing some of the benefits of U.S. tax reform with employees,” as announced in January, Graf said.
Company officials said results were boosted by a record peak season volume between Black Friday and Christmas.
FedEx shares closed at $251.99 on Tuesday, down somewhat from a historic peak of $274.66 in January.
“We are very excited that FedEx had a strong report today,” said Trip Miller, managing partner of Gullane Capital Partners in Memphis. “It looks like they beat estimates on revenue and earnings guidance. What we see is a business that is a bellwether for the economy. This business remains very, very strong…”
The company also raised its full-year earnings guidance significantly and said it expects strong gains in the March-May quarter as well.
“We are increasing our fiscal 2018 earnings outlook due to foreign tax benefits from our international corporate structure, the benefits from U.S. tax reform and improved operating performance,” Graf said.
“We remain committed to improving operating income at the FedEx Express segment by $1.2 to $1.5 billion in fiscal 2020 versus fiscal 2017,” Graf said.
The company slightly tamped down its capital spending forecast for the fiscal year ending May 31, from $5.9 billion to $5.8 billion.
Although FedEx has announced plans for a $1 billion expansion of the express hub in Memphis and a $1.5 billion expansion in Indianapolis, those are long-term projects that will be built over the next six or so years.
Reach reporter Wayne Risher at (901) 529-2874 or firstname.lastname@example.org.