Friday, February 09, 2007

What to do with the Pyramid, Idea #752 1/2

It's half an idea because I'm appropriating someone else's really good idea and removing the bad piece.

Smart City Memphis wrote a post a few months ago called "The Mid-South Fair Can't Just Be Fair Any More", in which they offhandedly suggested moving the Fair from the Fairgrounds to the Pyramid grounds. That's the really good part. The not so good part: Smart City wants to demolish the Pyramid to provide the grounds.

Demolish? Et tu, Smart City?

Anyway, my half of the idea is to give the Mid-South Fair a permanent easement to the Pyramid with the following conditions:
  • they can't sell it.
  • they can't demolish it.
  • they can't modify the exterior without approval of the Landmarks Commission.
  • they can use it to provide space for their exhibits and entertainment during the Fair and auditorium space for non-profit institutions and educational institutions the rest of the year. That's it. The Sege will have to find alternate arrangements.
We will engrave this agreement on Rameses chest so there will be no misplacing the document.

Why is this a brilliant half an idea?

Lots of space: the parking lots below Front Street are massive and could hold much if not all the midway that the Fairgrounds provided. The meeting rooms inside the Pyramid could provide all the exhibit space provided by multiple Fairground buildings. And the main auditorium would provide the space once given by the Coliseum. What about the livestock? There might even be space in the Pyramid for them.

Good space: the sunken parking lots below Front provide barriers between inside the Fair and out. On the west there are the floodwalls; on the south, a parking garage; on the east, the wall of Front Street; on the north, the Pyramid and Auction Street Bridge.

Parking (aka Our Purpose): because the trolley goes right by the sunken parking lot, you can park anywhere Downtown and take the trolley directly to the front entrance of the Fair. Better than Disneyland! Kids will love it. I will love it.

Ease of travel: Downtown is easier to get to than the Agricenter and the Fairgrounds from most starting points (except Cordova/Germantown and Midtown respectively), including East Shelby County and Fayette County, Millington and Tipton County, east Arkansas, and northern Mississippi.

Free advertising to a captive audience: When you were a kid, did you ever see a roadside fair and scream until your parents got off the highway? I did. We'll supersize that family ritual by putting the Fair next to an interstate bridge.

New customers for Downtown -- kids: Their parents may be afeared for their lives, but kids want to go to the Fair! And the memories Downtown will create -- of riding the trolley, going in the Pyramid, riding the rides with the pointy monolith hovering above them, seeing the Missisippi at dusk from a ferris wheel while eating a fried twinkie -- will be with them happily for the rest of their lives.

The downside:

It doesn't do anything about the debt: We'd still have that. But guess what? We have that now. In fact, most of the other ideas floated for the Pyramid require additional public funding, on the hope that we would see increased tax revenue from the new use. So this would save us money.

The structure and land will lie fallow most of the year (ala, the Fairgrounds): This is sort of true. The Pyramid could still operate for college and high school graduations and for non-profit events (if these aren't in violation of Memphis' agreement with the Grizzlies). But the rest of the time it wouldn't be doing anything except as an office for the Mid-South Fair. However, unlike the Fairgrounds, the parking lots below Front are built under interstate exits and entrances and bridges and probably couldn't be put to many other productive uses without removing the entrances and exits and bridges.

The new use might encourage the "building" of more surface parking lots in the Pinch District: Maybe, but the underuse of it along with the almost certain increase in property values will make this less likely.

The Pyramid is a White Elephant; this idea does nothing about that: Pyramids are White Elephants. Through human history, pyramids have served three main purposes: burial, weird religious rituals, and basketball. When the Ancients lost basketball, they had to go find some dead guy or live virgin.

We've got the Mid-South Fair.

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Blogger Michael said...

Glad to see someone else is a sloven fan of satellite imagery! Great tool for discussion ... especially for this one when most Memphians probably had no idea how big the area around the Pyramid really is.

10:59 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Maybe just sloven. I've got to watch that I don't use GE as a pajama-blogger alternative to boots on the ground photography.

But in this case and the Dixie Homes case, it lets you visualize in a way almost impossible from ground-level.

Who knows, ubiquitous birds-eye visualization might even, with time, change our perception of the city, letting us see the city as more of a whole rather than alien disconnected parts.

thanks for reading!

12:04 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I get your point about pajama-blogging. However, no digi-pic can do justice to what satellites show. Microsoft's (I know I know) bird's eye view option on their map site is incredible at 20 yards detail. I could see folks walking around the freakin' Pyramid!! Scary stuff. Getting an idea of the location of these places in relation to the city as a whole is priceless at times.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Will said...

Moving the fair to the Pyramid is a great idea. Any idea that doesn't involve fishing related retail stores/theme parks sounds good to me.

I couldn't find the first 751 "What to do with the Pyramid ideas". I guess I'll just keep looking.

4:25 PM  

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