Monday, November 06, 2006

Tennessee Brewery in 2D!

For your consideration, below are some elevations from the proposed development at the Tennessee Brewery:

East elevation:
East ElevationWest elevation:
West ElevationSouth elevation:
South ElevationNorth elevation:
North Elevation
My consideration:
  • The neo-modernist condominiums stuck to the back of the Brewery have no stylistic connection to the original building, which has been called the most architecturally interesting structure in town. Nor does the development have much (any?) connection to the structures in the neighborhood.
  • Why choose such a striking building as the Brewery and then swallow it with a hulking apartment block? The view of the Brewery from the west -- from Tom Lee Park and the Mississippi -- will disappear; the north and south views will almost disappear. For all practical purposes it will be reduced to an east-facing 2 dimensional facade, which is probably why Memphis Heritage Executive Director June West compared the project [pdf alert!] to Sam's Town, Tunica.Lost View from the West
  • Besides what it does to the Brewery itself, the other complaint against the development is the apartment block's mass. It will dwarf the rest of South Main and South Bluff. It will be half again as tall as the highest point of the Brewery (see picture above to get an idea of what that might look like). Balconies will hover above the courtyards below. South Bluff will look like Willie Loman's neighborhood.
  • Why did the Land Use Control Board approve this? Six citizens, mostly from the South Main and South Bluff neighborhoods spoke against the project. The only person who spoke for the project was Brenda Solomito, a consultant to the developers. Yet the LUCB approved it without a comment. No explanation why this project deserves a special exemption from zoning that protects the look and feel and value of a neighborhood. I truly appreciate the risks and the returns necessary for such a project, but those risks have also been faced by many others in the area who stayed within the zoning rules.
  • Never, ever underestimate the importance of icons like the Brewery to the identity of a city.
The development did have a regulatory setback a few weeks ago, as I had written about earlier. Also, I understand that one of the local neighborhood associations is circulating a petition in protest of this development. I'll let you know more about this when I get more details. Or if you get more details, let me know about it.


Anonymous sherman said...

Great question about the land use control board. Are they blind or on the take? Only explanation possible..

I don't get the feeling this is gonna happen. Fugly!

11:16 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

They might be asleep.

Each member of the board should be required to defend each vote with 15-30 seconds of explanation. Citizens trek down their in the middle of the day to be heard and they have no idea why the Board votes that way, or this way. Pro or con on any issue, I think anyone who gets up to defend a position deserves that respect.

10:31 PM  
Blogger PeskyFly said...

Jury is out for me at the moment. And since I used to sleep in the Brewery when we had the Shakespeare Festival going there, I'll measure my emotional attachment next to anybody's.

I'm torn between the lack of design continuity, and wondering if it's not a nice, neutral backdrop to show off the brewery for folks at ground level (does it need competing design? Does it even need rhyming design?).

In context, that stretch of Tennessee St. is pretty narrow, and the old warehouses/apts/offices loom like a tunnel on the trolley line that opens up to the east across from the brewery. It's a great stretch for filmmakers who need to fake Europe. A bigger structure at that particular neighborhood border might be okay. I don't think it would be all that obtrusive just there.

And let's not forget-- that stretch is also home to the most horribly matched up mansions--- no sense of continuity whatsoever. Hodge podge seems to be the overriding plan. Something that big and neutral could tone down the awful abundance to the north.

The old coffee warehouse that houses The Flyer/Memphis magazine etc. is cool, but not a marvel. You can see a gruesome alumanium warehouse through the parking lot.
The windowless concrete box north of that is, I understand, coming down and is going to be replaced with apartments. Don't know when, or how high.
I really love the Woodard house, but in the hodge podge it almost seems like the whitest elephant on the block. And I can't stress enough how much I'd love to see it without having to looka at the mismatched flanking properties.

I suppose I don't really dislike this as much as I should. Just there it might work.

Like the Dude's rug in The Big Lebowski.

8:28 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Your point about the benefits of neutrality is interesting. A stronger visualization from the development team could make that case. I haven't seen anything yet (including the architect's site) that helps them persuade.

For me, since this new building will become part of the Brewery, it should have a wow factor. If it were just in the lot next door, it could be almost anything; it would be better than an empty lot. But since it's going to be a meld, I wish they were going for wow, if not stylistic similarity.

I think they could build an even taller building on an empty lot on South Main (near the train station) with a lot less opposition. Or a taller sliver of a building in the lot next to the Brewery. This would hover mostly over the Bluff Walk rather than South Bluff, plus provide a built in market for a Tennessee Brewery redevelopment.

This is hard case because the developers are going to save 76% of the building. The next people might not save 1%. We don't have (never had) official leadership in Memphis that sees structures like the Tennessee Brewery as cornerstones of Memphis' identity and future. 'Til we do, there's a risk opposing the mostly preserved.

11:32 PM  
Blogger PeskyFly said...

The degree of preservation it partly what tilts me toward this project. Make the brewery the wow factor.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear the comments about "neutral" design, but that doesn't justify wrapping it around completely on the west and north sides. From those perspectives, there is no Brewery against which the neutrality will be visualized. The perspective from the trolley and the river is completely obliterated with the current design. Plus, the planners came up with height restrictions for South Main for a reason; why would these zoning rules be ignored when a building on the National Registry of Historic Places is at stake?

Save the history, don't "develop" it. If they want a new condo building, find an empty lot.

Many have signed a petition urging the City Council to simply enforce its zoning codes. There will be forces out on Trolley Night on South Main (Friday the 24th). If interested----email for a copy and for more information, because there is still time to register additional opposing views!

4:05 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

I've sent an email to the address you mentioned for more info and a copy of the petition.

I agree completely about finding another site in an empty lot -- there still seems to be many.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Alberto said...

I recieved a letter with exhibits from Solomito Land Planning. In exhibit B it compares its proposed and revised acreage to The Lofts acreage falsely.

They have revised their acreage to 1.08 vs The Lofts 1.10. Then they say their proposed 135 units (revised down from original submission of 140)is similar to The Lofts's 125. What they fail to mention is that The Lofts has a separate building for the majority of The Lofts resident's parking across the street. So In actuallity there is a lot more acreage or square footage for The Lofts smaller resident population and car population. i.e. The brewery project is still trying to cram more people and more cars into less space than The Lofts.

Their arguement that "a side-by-side comparison illustrates the similar density and appropriateness of the Brewery project" is based of false or incomplete information and therefore not valid.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is somewhat remarkable that almost no local organizations (except for Memphis Heritage) are willing to take a stand against this development, even if it destroys a historic buildig. Is there no sense that perhaps preservation of historic buildings has some importance in attracting residents and businesses to downtown?

6:04 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Alberto, if you're still there, do you know if the project developers have given financial projections?

Anonymous, what organizations are you talking about? I don't disagree, but I'd like your take on who's sitting it out.

I think we need to come up with another word besides "historic". To most people, history is Abe Lincoln and other "great men". If Abe Lincoln or George Washington didn't sleep there, it's not historic so knock it down!

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This opposition and narrow mindedness against this peoject is typical and why nothung can succeeed in downtown.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont like the fact that a development company want to cast the beautifull brewery in showdows.i am looking fowored to owneing the building and turning the building into apt homes .not building a grand building over it but keeping its grand of the old building. I am going to buy it so memphis get ready. the old historical brewary will be back

12:40 PM  

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