Monday, March 12, 2007

And While We're Saving Memphis, Save Fairview!

From a distance*, it's very hard to get a good visual sense of the magnificence of Fairview Junior High School.Fairview Junior High School, from corner of East Parkway and CentralBut up close it's a diamond.

Fairview name over front entranceUntil I took these pictures (which I recommend clicking on to see the detail even better), I've never been this close to the building.
ornamentation from front entranceIt may be early, but it's never too early to protect a beauty like this from bubbas on bulldozers (aka, developers and the politicians who love them).

detail from top of Fairview, Day
detail from top of Fairview, NightThat's because, as part of the Fairgrounds, Fairview is indeed threatened. The committee that came together to study Fairgrounds redevelopment (report here) recommended "scenario 5" where
Fairview Jr. High School could also be relocated but remain on-site along East Parkway, permitting the full development of the Central Avenue corridor frontage.
Fairview entranceOf course, that's the school Fairview, not the building. What happens to the building?
Whether the WPA-era art deco-style building is reused or not is dependant on the feasibility of rehabilitating the building for other purposes.
Fairview panelUh oh -- "feasibility". Bureaucratic excuses are being readied.

Fairview panelLater in the Looney Ricks Kiss authored report:
Fairview Jr. High School is under study by the school board, but the school is situated such that it could stay or go in any of the illustrated scenarios. If it is no longer a public school, then the reuse of the building makes sense if it is proven to be financially feasible.
Fairview panelBig uh-oh. "makes sense if it is proven to be financially feasible" is developer-speak for "if we feel like it."

Fairview panelThese excerpts, from the report issued a year ago, isn't what prompted this post though. It was this recent story on Fairgrounds redevelopment that offhandedly mentioned demolishing Fairview that has me worried.
The last [proposal] would clear the entire area leaving only the Children's Museum of Memphis standing.

By tearing down Fairview Elementary and moving it, the corner there would become prime real estate for retail and business.
Fairview urnThis pisses me off for 3 different reasons.
  1. they would demolish this awesome building.
  2. and destroy everything else but leave the juiced Children's Museum standing. Another example of power protecting power and money, and screwing everything else in Memphis.
  3. they talk about "prime real estate for retail and business" when another corner, one stinkin' block away, at Hollywood and Central, has been empty for almost a year. Classic Memphis development anti-pattern-- demolishing beauty when there's an unused brownfield next door.
Fairview grounds frieze On the positive side, Sunday's Commercial Appeal had a story about the City School's budget that mentioned opening a district-wide welcome center at Fairview. Of course, there is a distinction between Fairview the school and Fairview the building, but I have to believe that they're one and the same for the school system right now.

*Several things that work visually against Fairview from a distance.
  1. You can't see the awesome detail.
  2. You can see the institutional yellow paint.
  3. It has great trees but their random placement obscures the school and what seems to have been a very formal, and now completely forgotten, grounds layout.
  4. A parking lot in front obscures the school further.
  5. A utility shed and the generic City Schools marker in front completes the banal disguise.
New development could use the skeleton of the ample formal grounds as structure for new development. Done well, it could make Fairview pop out in a way it doesn't now. In turn Fairview's visual magnificence, whether still a school or not, would bless the new development.

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Blogger Shannon said...

fairview is in memphis city schools cip budget for next year. it will be renovated and part of it will be used as a district welcome center.

12:49 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Shannon, that's great news.

Of course, someone needs to tell the Fairground redev knuckleheads because they were talking about bulldozing it as an option just last Friday.

Anyway, preservation vigilance around here is never an overreaction.


1:22 PM  
Anonymous dee said...

I was at a meeting last week at First Congo church, sponsored by the CYCA, that brought the Looney, Ricks, and Kiss folks out with their power-point presentation.

Scott McCormick told the crowd that Fairview school was being renovated, not demolished.

Looney, Ricks and Kiss, along with a consultant from New York (RKG), are being paid tax dollars to produce an Economic Impact Statement. Rick Auterman of LRK said that LRK's budget was "between $35,000 - $50,000." He did not know RKG's fee, however.

The current administration also paid LRK $50,000 18 months ago, with specific instructions NOT to do an economic impact study. Curioser and curioser!

12:31 AM  

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