Restoration of historic downtown Memphis home taking root - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Restoration of historic downtown Memphis home taking root

(WMC-TV) – With a history degree under his belt, Memphis business executive Jose Velazquez says he and the James Lee House are a match made in heaven.

"It's a challenge and we're up for it," said Velazquez, the proposed owner of the James Lee House.

Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Morris says it took two years to identify Velazquez as the man with the know-how to restore the house to its former glory.

"Right now, it's a huge liability for the city," stated Paul Morris, President of the Downtown Memphis Commission.  "But if Jose can come through with over $2 million to redevelop this, then this neighborhood will have one of the most majestic houses in the city of Memphis," he added.

Councilman Lee Harris is proposing the city transfer the house to Velazquez for a dollar.

"Luckily, we found somebody in Jose who is willing to take on this project to really tackle this project, to put in some money, some time, some effort," said Councilman Lee Harris.

Action News 5 took an exclusive tour inside - where we saw great beauty amid the ruin.  The Grand Parlor dominates the first floor of the James Lee House.

"It's the only structure we know of in Memphis that's on the Library of Congress' Survey of Historic Buildings," said Morris.

The house will take a year to renovate. It needs all new plumbing, and electricity and the architects will have a big job on their hands preserving the features that make the house one-of-a-kind.

"On the second floor, we project to have four suites.  The crowning jewel of the second floor would be the Lee Suite," Velazquez stated.

Pictures show what the Lee Suite looks like now, and there is an artist's rendering of what Velazquez wants it to look like.

Velazquez committed to moving his family into the third floor of the house to run the bed and breakfast as a family business.

"We're excited to be able to work together with the community to make this happen," said Velazquez.

The plans are not set in stone.  On August 21, the Memphis City Council will vote whether or not to transfer the building to Velazquez.

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