Universal Life building renovated, reopened as business development center

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Universal Life Insurance Building has been reborn as part of a continuous push for economic equality.

It's the rebirth of a building that once served as a beacon for black business during years of segregation.

The Universal Life Insurance Building will serve as the new home of the City's Business Development Center.

Joseph Walker, A.W. Willis, and Dr. J.T. Wilson founded the business, which grew to be one of the largest life insurance companies in the U.S.

Given its rich history, the city and Self Tucker Properties said the location was the perfect environment to spur small business development.

"A lot opportunity for collaboration and information sharing," said Jimmie Tucker with Self Tucker Properties.

Built in 1949 at the corner of Danny Thomas and Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue, the building's mid-century Egyptian architecture now has energy efficient designs with eco-friendly features.

A combination of public and private funds totaling $6.2 million was used to renovate the space.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said it's an opportunity to expand minority business contracting, business services, and resources.

"We want in 10, 20 or 30 years to say 'we made a difference and we grew the number of African American owned businesses in this city,'" Strickland said.

The building will be a stop along the Memphis Heritage Trail.

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