Friday, June 01, 2007

International Design Contest: Hotel Chisca

Artist apartments and hostel at the Hotel ChiscaThis post is my entry, my suggestion, and could be Memphis' answer (or part thereof):

Transform the beautiful, historic Hotel Chisca into subsidized artist apartments and hostel, and let the artists DIY (Design It Yourself).

This is not your standard rehab. The only contracted work done will be infrastructural -- modernizing the plumbing and HVAC, making sure any structural and safety problems are corrected. The rest is done by the artist residents. The public areas -- hallways, lobbies, etc... -- will be designed by the artists (over the undersight of a resident democratically elected committee). The interiors of the apartments will also be tabula rasa, with no new amenities except for the bare minimum -- stove and refrigerator. By keeping its wrinkles, the Chisca will make an asymetrically perfect match for that other great South Main bookend -- Earnestine and Hazel's.

A percentage of the building will be reserved as hostel for artists touring through Memphis. The weird motel area on the side might be a good place for the hostel, as long as everyone comes and goes through the same entrances. The mix of local and non-local is very important. Perhaps the hostel could be renovated by residents in exchange for further subsidies.

Zombies pass site of the future Ghetto Palms BarThe only non-subsidized parts of the complex will be the Red Hot and Blue Skyway, on the roof, and The Ghetto Palms Bar, on Main Street where the pool was (will be?). This bar will be shaded by boxed Ailanthus -- the Trees of Heaven -- transplanted from the open graves of Memphis' tragic demolitions.

The development would have to be owned and operated by a non-profit foundation, because the temptation would be too great for a private developer to boot the artists once they've enlivened the area.

A question: how would someone identify themselves or be identified as an artist?

Anyway, here's an example, the Hotel Virreyes in Mexico City.

It would make South Main Arts District more its namesake and less a beautiful real estate scheme. And it would give our low-cost, high-energy creativity a home. Anyone who witnessed the Memphis Zombie Walk knows the power of that creativity.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous john said...

Thanks for clueing me in to the Ailanthus. I've always just figured they were mutant mimosas (which are not really mimosas, according to wikipedia...mimosa is an herb or a brunch drink). This entry saved two ghetto palms from destruction in my alleyway this weekend. I wonder if I can transplant them to the front yard?

I love the idea of a hostel. It seems like with that much space you could maybe open up space for hostelling international. With a spot on amtrak between chicago and memphis, we could draw a good bit of the hostelling crowd if there were ample and safe accomodation for them.

Do you think it's realistic that COGIC would relinquish such prime real estate?

3:47 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

John, relinquish no, sell perhaps. I hear that the developers of the hotel next door don't want to keep the Chisca.

I first heard the term "Ghetto Palm" on a Smart City radio podcast (I believe where Carol Coletta was talking to the founder of a Detroit art museum). The term apparently comes from Detroit. I had always called them weed trees. Given the nickname, it's ironic that the first place I ever noticed them was in the courtyard of a vacant Germantown condo.

glad to see I could help save something for destruction.

thanks for readin' and commentin'!

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

COGIC plans to tear down the Chisca and put up a hotel someday. They are very slow to develop things and it drives me nuts that a church is trying to do something other than spread the Word of God. Leave developing to developers, not congregations.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

You win.

Interestingly, a couple of blogs just wrote about a similar - if not slightly more posh - version of your idea in Philadelphia. The kicker? It was actually sponored by the Philly Tourism Board.

Love your blog, by the way.

11:04 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Melissa, I originally was going to title this post, "Gates of Memphis wins International Design Contest". Now I can. Alright! Would love to help make something like this happen.

btw, that post of fearlessvk's is my favorite of hers. Great idea.

thanks for readin'/commentin'.

11:36 PM  

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