This past week, several ISI
team members and I were provided a unique opportunity to take a tour of the
Sears Crosstown Building courtesy of the Church Health Center staff and Dr.
Scott Morris. According to Wikipedia, in 1927 at a cost of $5 million, the building was constructed in only 180
days, with work crews operating 24 hours a day, six days a week. Sears &
Roebuck's eighth regional distribution center included a soda fountain, luncheonette,
employee cafeteria, and in-house hospital. The Crosstown Building was a premier
Sears retail store for more than 60 years and at its height the distribution
center processed over 40,000 orders a day in a building with no air
conditioning or technology. Take that Amazon!
In 2010, The Crosstown Arts
project began working on resurrecting the building as a "mixed-used
vertical urban village." Developers received commitments from nine
prospective tenants called "founding partners" to fill more than
600,000 square feet of the building with various uses. The current plan is to
have retail stores and restaurants on the first floor; fitness, health, arts,
education, and office space on floors two through six, plus 270 apartments
occupying floors seven through ten
What made this visit
particularly fun for all the ISI staff was that not only did we get a chance to
see an iconic Memphis building going through a major renovation (that’s
capturing nationwide attention) but our tour was conducted by one of the most
impressive people I have ever met in my 50 years of living in Memphis.
Scott Morris, a family practice physician and ordained United Methodist
minister, founded the Church Health Center in 1987 to provide quality,
affordable healthcare for working, uninsured people and their families. Thanks
to a broad base of financial support from the faith community, and the
volunteer help of doctors, nurses, dentists and others, the Church Health
Center Clinic has grown to become the largest faith-based healthcare
organization of its type in the country.
Besides telling us about the
plans for the Church Health Center move to Crosstown, Dr. Morris also spent
some time describing the Church Health Center’s philosophy and vision for
healthcare in the future. He described how he is treating his patients
with a “life plan” that includes dealing with not just their physical but
mental health as well and tackling issues like getting an education, vocational
training etc. He further explained that the mission of Church Health Center is
to 1) teach 2) preach and 3) heal and that everyone on his staff is committed
to that mission.
I must say that spending the
afternoon touring Crosstown with Dr. Morris and the Church Health Center staff
was one of the most enjoyable and inspiring experiences I have had in a long
time. Crosstown is a magnificent building and I am so proud that my community
has taken the bold steps to restore it and return to its former glory.
Very exciting! And Dr. Morris is an incredible asset for the entire city of
Memphis in all that he is doing for the poor and underserved. There is no
doubt (in my mind) that with Dr. Morris’ leadership the Church Health Center
will continue to change Memphis (for the better) and the world around us for
many years to come.