MEMPHIS, Tenn. — U-Haul Moving & Storage of South Bluffs is the Commercial Property of the Year, a prestigious designation it received May 17 at the second annual Memphis Blight Elimination Summit.
U-Haul has long since engaged in sustainable practices and environmental protection. The industry leader in do-it-yourself moving and self-storage utilizes its adaptive reuse program to re-purpose and also beautify old and often abandoned buildings.
The Memphis Blight Elimination Summit honors deserving nominees each year. The awards go to community members for outstanding efforts in improving the appearance of their properties. Nominees go out of their way to eliminate blight and increase the value and appearance of their communities.
“The goal of this year’s summit was to highlight the successful projects where people have made a difference,” states Steve Barlow, Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. president. “The (South Bluffs) U-Haul building is a very high-profile building. It was often the first thing people saw when coming into Memphis. It screamed, ‘Don’t come here!’ As a result of U-Haul’s hard work, the visual has completely changed.”
Piece of Memphis History
The 125,921-square-foot building at 137 W. Illinois Ave., which dates to 1912, is in the city’s South Bluffs neighborhood. It stands just a few blocks from the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge.
The building once housed the W.T. Rawleigh Company, one of the largest mail-order companies in America. The manufacturing and delivery of soaps and medicines took place there and, at one time, inventory was delivered to the warehouse by wagon from the Mississippi River.
The Rawleigh Company closed its Memphis division in the late 1970s. Many other businesses also occupied the building over the years.
“This building sat vacant for more than 15 years,” U-Haul Company of Memphis president Carol George says. “It was decaying and becoming an eyesore. There were broken windows everywhere, the landscaping was overgrown and graffiti covered the walls.
“U-Haul was happy to step in. We are always trying to make a positive impact on our local communities. Taking these old buildings and turning them around is just one of the ways we do that. It’s an honor to receive recognition due to the hard work we’ve put into this building.”
U-Haul Company’s Corporate Sustainability initiatives drove the acquisition of the South Bluffs facility. U-Haul supports infill developments to help local communities lower their carbon footprint. Also, new construction materials need energy and resources. The adaptive reuse of existing buildings consequently reduces these things. It also helps cities reduce their unwanted inventory of unused buildings.
“At U-Haul, we are committed to sustainability through environmental protection, social responsibility and economic efficiency,” explains Dr. Allan Yang, U-Haul chief sustainability scientist. “A fundamental policy in U-Haul property development is to rehabilitate existing buildings in lieu of building anew. Building conversions allow U-Haul to promote infill development to meet citizens’ needs while preserving the natural resources and land normally required for new construction.”
Barrow says: “We believe there is immense opportunity in old buildings. Therefore, we need help from businesses like U-Haul to make others realize their full potential. Many businesses look at these buildings and think there is nothing to do but tear them down. U-Haul has shown how to take advantage of existing structures.”
Finally, by reusing the Rawleigh Building, U-Haul prevents 1,078 tons of metal manufacturing and transportation from being used; avoids 15,406 tons of new concrete pours; keeps 16,528 tons of construction and demolition debris out of landfills; and also stops 10,547,123 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere.
“This building sits on the main thoroughfare into Memphis and thousands drive by it every day,” George says. “We are happy to have the opportunity to save this historic building. The community and also the city are behind us completely.”
Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. dedicates itself to improving Memphis. It does this through combating the complex legal issues around blight abatement. They move nuisance properties back into productive use. So the nonprofit is helping to create a more attractive Memphis.