At 430 feet, the iconic 100 North Main office tower is the tallest building in Memphis, Tennessee. Completed in 1965 after 2 years of construction, the tower stands 38 stories with a rooftop revolving restaurant and Japanese rock garden. 100 North Main was designed by local architect Robert Lee Hall, who also designed the Clark Tower, as well as Patterson Hall at the University of Memphis. The Industrial-style office tower was covered in vertical marble panels and aluminum windows.
The base of the tower is a parking garage with street level entrances to retail space. Due to its proximity to various municipal buildings, the tenant base was mainly attorneys, title companies, and various other government professionals involved with the courts. The office tower borders Adams Avenue, North Second Street, and North Main.
For years, 100 North Main was crowned with a bright-red illuminated “UP BANK” sign. Many people mistakenly believed that 100 North Main was the headquarters of Union Planters Bank.
In the 1960s, rooftop restaurants were all the rage. There were 3 in Memphis, alone. The restaurants never rotated fast enough to cause motion sickness. In fact, if you did not have a long, leisurely dinner you might not make a full rotation. The rooftop restaurant in 100 North Main operated under several different names over the years including Top of the 100, The Tennessee Club, Diane’s and The Pinnacle before closing.
The rooftop restaurant sits on rubber tires and rotates 360 degrees every 90 minutes. In 2006, the aging office tower was priced for sale at $20 million. Due to a low demand in office space in downtown Memphis, 100 North Main began to decline in value. By 2012, only 30% of the building was occupied. In August 2013, the 100 North Main tower was sold to Isaac Thomas for $5 million.
Mr. Thomas revealed he planned to renovate 100 North Main into a mixed-use development which would include commercial space, apartments, and a luxury hotel. The renovation was expected to cost $100 million. In February 2014, all of the remaining tenants were given notice to vacate the building by the end of May. Construction began in June, after all of the tenants moved out. A few permits for interior demolition were given by the city but construction quickly halted due to a lack of funds.
The deteriorating building was condemned in 2015 by Shelby County Environmental Court for falling debris and inoperable fire safety equipment. A court-ordered barricade was placed around 3 sides blocking the sidewalk. The city cited the owner with 31 other violations including inoperable elevators and blocking the sidewalks. Mr. Thomas was able to have 100 North Main placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2015 hoping for historic tax credits to assist with funding the renovation. Numerous cut off notices were sent from Memphis Light, Gas, and Water divisions with an amount owed totaling over $80,000. On occasion the building was used by Memphis SWAT for training.
The inability to obtain financing and 2 years of unpaid taxes forced Mr. Thomas to sell 100 North Main in late 2015 for $5 million. The new owner faces the same code violations from the city and the building remains barricaded with a security patrol. One of the best views of Memphis sits locked away.