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Memphis in May Buys 56 S. Front for HQ

Memphis in May International Festival Inc. has bought a 14,600-square-foot building at 56 S. Front St. for $250,000, with plans to move its headquarters to the site. It’s the third planned use for the site, which formerly was slated to be converted into a hotel and, later, into apartments.

The organization filed a $1 million construction loan through First Tennessee Bank at the time of purchase.

The seller, Joe Sinkovich, sold the site under the name The Bull, Bear & Banker LLC. Sinkovich worked with Memphis in May International Festival Inc. to sell the property at below-market price, according to a statement from the organization.

The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is on the east side of Front Street north of Union Avenue.

The nonprofit’s current offices are in a leased suite in the 88 Union Center building at 88 Union Ave., less than a block southeast of the new building. It hopes to occupy the new building by next summer, according to MIM’s statement.

The Bull, Bear & Banker LLC bought 56, 60 and 62 S. Front in two transactions in early 2008 for $950,000. At that time, plans were to convert the three addresses into The Grade Hotel, named for the cotton grading that once occurred in the building, according to the Center City Commission’s website at the time of the 2008 sale. The plans also included a restaurant, coffee shop and bookstore.

By December 2009, Sinkovich’s plan had changed to convert the building into 23 apartments and 12,000 square feet of street-level commercial space, according to plans he filed with the CCC. Those plans included a 5,000-square-foot pizza restaurant.

The building, which was built in 1875, has three stories and a basement. It has been vacant for more than a decade but formerly housed Prince Mongo’s Planet, which later changed its name to Saint Mongo’s Atonement Center. Mongo, whose real name is Robert Hodges, painted the building bright pink.

The Shelby County Assessor of Property, which quotes the building at 15,000 square feet, appraised the property in 2011 at $442,800.

The design is being managed by Architecture Inc., and the project is being led by firm principal Joseph P. Hagen, according to the statement from MIM. Construction will be handled by Grinder, Taber & Grinder.

The sale was handled by Jeb Fields of Commercial Advisors, according to MIM.