Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Letter to Target

proposed site of Target, Poplar and Watkins, Memphis
Robert J. Ulrich
Chairman of the Board and
Chief Executive Officer
Target Corporation

Dear Mr. Ulrich,

Memphis has recently learned that we're to get a new Target store in the area of Memphis called Crosstown. There's been much discussion as to whether Target would choose a suburban design -- a box warehouse surrounded by asphalt parking lot -- for this location. I'm writing you to ask that Target build a store that will embody, in your aisles and in our streets, your corporate emphasis on great design and is mindful of the urban setting you have chosen for your store.
Madison Avenue trolley line, 2 blocks from proposed Target
Sacred Heart Church, 2 blocks from proposed Target
cottage directly across from proposed Target
Crosstown is a section of Memphis that was originally an early 20th century trolley suburb, full of bungalows, shotgun houses and 2-story family homes and small-scale commercial buildings (I've enclosed photos of some nearby examples). However the area had declined substantially from the 1960s, when a urban freeway sliced through its heart, demolishing many of these structures, and another planned (but never completed) freeway resulted in the demolition of many more. Businesses closed. Cheaply made apartment buildings replaced houses. Neighborhoods not destroyed began a long decline. Where you plan on building your new store is one of those neighborhoods.
home, 2 blocks from proposed Target
2 homes, 1 block from proposed Target
Memphis has only recently stopped this decline. A big part of the comeback has been the infill of homes in the area where the unbuilt freeway demolished homes. At the insistence of community leaders, the rebuilt homes were built to the aesthetic standards of the neighboring undemolished homes. The scars left by the unbuilt freeway have healed thanks largely to the design quality of these rebuilt homes. Other factors are the diverse community who have settled and stayed in that area, and a new downtown to Crosstown trolley system that Memphis added whose terminal is just 2 blocks from your proposed site.
Buddhist association, 1/2 block from proposed Target
bungalow directly behind proposed Target
I speak for no one but myself, but I nevertheless ask that as you design the new store, you consider how you can help further transform and revitalize Crosstown Memphis (as well as attract customers) through beautiful, affordable and place-conscious design. Just as Target transformed itself by growing through design, you can help do the same with this area of Memphis. I hope that you will consider my request.


The Gates of Memphis

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Blogger dwayne said...

if the build this target where they intend to, i will be able to walk to it. i also hope they build it wih the recommendations you have stated.

11:23 PM  
Blogger NICK A. DAVIS said...

what street is it going on? I can't tell the location by the main photo!

12:23 PM  
Blogger Melvis said...

Brilliant! I hope you can convince them.
If you need assistance please contact me
I am happy to do what I can to make this a reality.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...

i think i love you ;)

11:36 PM  
Blogger MATAlac said...

I did a double take when I saw the site photo. I can see my son's bedroom window from there. He and his mom had lived in that building for about a year, and almost every night is tire squeals and gunshots. Even more disturbing was that after all the gunshots, you never heard police, like they had figured out that checking it out was a lousy idea unless they were called. If somebody got messed up, there might be someone get them straight to the Med quicker and with less complications than getting the police involved with their lack of documentaion. Meanwhile the asian houses are fortresses on lockdown.

"Forget it Jake, Its Chinatown" Memphis style. Not quite.

If get it correctly (or maybe I'm wrong) the configuration could be two ways on this shape of this lot (Cleveland b/w Poplar and Jefferson back to McNeil) and its situation. The lot is back off Poplar by 1 parcel, commercial or residential two stories. I would only assume that the three or so houses on Washington St will be razed, as will some of the roughest apartments in town.

As for bringing up the scale and character of the neighborhood, I would be insulted if they either put up a stock suburban big box or
some attempt to make new look old.

If I were to press a company to make a 'beautiful' building that would be contextual. I would first ask that no trees be removed, and the store to be situated to give the best access to pedestrians rather than vehicles. The building design to utilize the latest in energy efficency and indoor air/light quality. This could aslo go as far as the installation of a greenroof. I would feel better if the store embodied these qualities rather than inventing some fake past where big box retailers were around in the 1920's.

Oops, that already happened down the street at the Sears building. The correct site for something of this scale.

8:51 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Dwayne and Stacey, really glad you like the post.

Nick, the project as it was reported by the CA will be on the SE corner of Poplar and Watkins.

I was hoping to give more context but wanted to get the letter out before it's rhetorically moot. Nothing's been mentioned of the development since the Commercial Appeal article. There was a discussion on the urbanplanet Memphis forum, with a good breadth of opinion. I'm excited about the value Target may bring to the neighborhood, but I don't think it will be much value-added if they opt for the suburban "design". Maybe even value-subtracted.

Melvis, I don't know if I got my point across, and whether anyone at Target with power will read it, but I sent the letter. If you have any suggestions about selling the idea, you can email me at or comment here. I'll do the same with you.

matalac, the Sears Tower would be a much bolder choice, perhaps even less risky. Who can't see Target's glowing neon logo high above Cleveland, visible from all directions of Memphis? They could have opened the store, and slowly developed the rest, attracting residents and businesses with their design mindshare. As for the Watkins site, I wouldn't have any problem if it were influenced by the commercial storefront architecture of Madison Avenue, or of Cooper. For instance, the Strings and Things building on Madison -- there's another big box. That would be an honest model I think. Anyway, an outward facing mega-border of asphalt is what I fear the most.

12:43 AM  

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