Thursday, March 29, 2007

Are the Brownfields of Memphis Fertile?

Sterick Building -- Pediment to the FutureAre they especially fertile for new development?

Or put another way, is the existence of old buildings toxic to new development?

I would never say they were toxic but they could be a drag if Memphis were all built up -- no empty space left. But Memphis has plenty of empty space left. Plenty. So many empty lots that already exist throughout downtown -- lots emptied long ago by demolition.

We bulldozed everything around Beale Street 40 years ago, but it's only been the last 5 years that something besides grass and surface parking has replaced the lost buildings. We bulldozed everything in the block surrounding the Morgan Keegan Building over 20 years ago, and it still has empty space.

And that's on top of the many surface parking lots all over the Pinch, through the main and eastern section of downtown and around the FedEx Forum -- all paved on the graves of once standing structures.

If demolition attracted new development, downtown Memphis would have the skyline of Hong Kong.

Beware of Memphis' second greatest and grossest development anti-pattern: speculative demolition.

If the developers we're trying to attract are such bottom-feeders that they can't:
  1. imagine the re-use of an existing structure;
  2. envision the space without it being empty first;
  3. pay for demolition themselves.
then we better hope that all we've torn down was a convenience store, because we're not likely to get anything better as a replacement.

The answer is "no". Fill the holes first before creating new ones.

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Anonymous fieldguidetomemphis said...

Do you know if there is a comprehensive map of Memphis brownfield locations?

1:04 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

No I don't but I'll check with some planner types I know.

You might see if anyone's done work via tools like Google Earth/Maps to identify land use by image recognition.

2:10 PM  
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