Last weekend the Selection Committee met in Oakland, California and named Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, Tennessee the Gold Medalist and recipient of $50,000 to benefit the project.

Completed in 2017, Crosstown Concourse is the $210 million rehabilitation of a historic Sears, Roebuck & Company distribution center into a mixed-use vertical village. The biggest adaptive reuse project in Tennessee and the largest LEED Platinum Certified historic adaptive reuse project in the world, the 16-acre development integrates housing, offices, restaurants, and retail along with nonprofit arts and culture, health and wellness, and educational organizations.

Once home to the city’s largest employer, the 1.5-million-square-foot structure was abandoned in 1993 and stood vacant for more than 20 years. In 2010, Christopher Miner and Todd Richardson founded Crosstown Arts, a nonprofit arts organization to create a vision for its redevelopment that would cultivate the city’s creative community through “an open and inclusive place designed to dissolve barriers to access.” The development was made possible in part by a partnership with McLean T. Wilson – Kemmons Wilson Companies (co-developer), and commitments from eight founding partner organizations dedicated to arts, education, and healthcare that collectively leased over 400,000 square feet in the building, as well as financing from federal Historic and New Market Tax Credits and support from the City of Memphis and Shelby County. Designed by Memphis-based Looney Ricks Kiss in association with DIALOG (Vancouver) and Spatial Affairs Bureau (UK), Crosstown Concourse is now home to 40 diverse tenants including a charter high school, and 265 apartments housing over 400 residents.

“Crosstown Concourse has received a number of highly regarded awards over the past year, but this one is really special,” says Crosstown Arts Co-Director/Co-Founder Todd Richardson. “We have been inspired by past RBA winners, and to be in the company of Gold Medalists like SteelStacks Arts & Cultural Campus in Pennsylvania and Pike Place Market in Seattle is both exciting and daunting. We are encouraged by the growing, diverse community in Crosstown but also know we have work to do to create the kind of inclusive and sustainable impact we aspire to. The RBA Gold Medal prize will further this goal by supporting the ongoing arts events and programming that contribute to the unique Crosstown experience.”

The 2019 RBA Silver Medalists

Beyond Walls— Lynn, MA

Grassroots public art and lighting initiative revitalizing a former industrial city.

(Submitted by Beyond Walls)

Image courtesy of Warren Jagger

Buffalo Bayou Park— Houston, TX

Enhancement of a historic waterway into a resilient public greenspace.

(Submitted by SWA Group)

Image courtesy of Jonnu Singleton

Parisite Skatepark—New Orleans, Lousiana

Youth-driven DIY creation of a new public park on vacant land beneath a highway overpass.

(Submitted by Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund on behalf of the Tulane School of Architecture’s Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design)

Image courtesy of Michael Wong

Sulphur Springs Downtown—Sulphur Springs, TX

Renewal of a rural, small-town civic plaza and main street.

(Submitted by Toole Design)

Image courtesy of Cindy Roller

RBA entries comprise completed projects across the contiguous United States. Finalists and medalists are chosen by a nationwide committee of urban experts through an in-depth evaluation process involving input from the award application, site visits, interviews with project participants and community members, and committee discussions.

The 2019 selection committee:

  • Libby Schaaf—Mayor, City of Oakland, CA
  • Adrian Benepe—Senior Vice President and Director of National Programs at the Trust for Public Land, New York, NY
  • Brenda Breaux—Executive Director for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), New Orleans, LA
  • Carol Coletta—President and CEO of the Memphis River Parks Partnership, Memphis, TN
  • Marc Norman—Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Michigan, Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Carol Ross Barney, FAIA—Principal Designer, Ross Barney Architects, Chicago, IL

Next month, RBA staff will begin site visits to each finalist project in preparation for the committee’s selection of the medal winners in June. Metropolis magazine will tell the stories of each of these sites through a series of online features. Findings and lessons learned will be relayed through detailed case studies and published in book form in 2020 as a resource for educators, practitioners, and students. Past case studies are available on the RBA website.

“The 2019 RBA medalists illustrate the transformative power of design in creating places that bring people together and lift the human spirit,” says RBA Founder Simeon Bruner. “Gold Medalist Crosstown Concourse is an innovative, locally-driven solution to the challenge of repurposing legacy infrastructure nationwide. It reflects strong community values that foster inclusiveness and opportunity.”

About the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) was created in 1986 by Simeon Bruner, founding principal of Bruner/Cott Architects and Planners (Cambridge, MA), and is a program of the Bruner Foundation. The RBA was named in honor of founder Simeon Bruner’s late father, who established the Foundation in 1963 with his mother, Martha. The Bruner Foundation is renowned for its pioneering approach to social issues including health care, education, evaluation, and the built environment.