New chap­ter opens for Uni­ver­sal Life build­ing

Ren­o­va­tion is a sec­ond chance to aid com­mu­nity

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - Wayne Risher Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NES­SEE

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

cem­ber.

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 wayne.risher@com­mer­cialap­peal.com.

THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

Work­ers are busy in­side the Uni­ver­sal Life In­sur­ance build­ing. Self+Tucker Ar­chi­tects and the City of Mem­phis Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter are ex­pected to move into 480 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. this spring. BRAD VEST /

Own­ers and ar­chi­tects Juan Self, left, and Jim­mie Tucker stand in­side what will be their new of­fices at the Uni­ver­sal Life In­sur­ance build­ing at 480 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. BRAD VEST / THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

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