Monday, July 16, 2007

There's a Hole in the Heart of the Arts

Here is the Heart of the Arts.

Visit Heart of the ArtsAnd here is the Hole in the Heart of the Arts.

Hole in the Heart of the Arts
Yes, I'm talking about my old arch-nemesis -- the Overton Square big-ass parking lot.

It's an asphalt tarmac big enough (and perhaps decreated) for a Wal-Mart, as artless as Midtown gets. It mocks the idea of a pedestrian arts district. It and its smaller brethren across Madison have made Overton Square into a convenience store.

It destroys the energy, leaks the life, out of the Heart of the Arts.

If HotA is to be more than marketing website, if it's to be a real Arts district based on pedestrian proximity to its great organizations, then that Hole must be torn up.

HotA has a great concept with its plans/hopes/dreams for a mini-greenway between Overton Park and Overton Square. And a special connection needs a special space as destination.

Dig up that asphalt and smush it into public art.

Fill the Hole.

Update: bad form -- didn't mention my source for this info. It was the recent edition of the Cooper Young Lamplighter. I just discovered it was online so you can read the article about the Heart of the Arts launch there. That's where I saw mention of the greenway.

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Blogger field guide to memphis said...

what about a flea market like the one on south 3rd street heading toward tunica?

or what about a giant sidewalk chalk art contest? or a compass rose design party?

or a roller skating rink in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter?

3:33 PM  
Blogger Will Barrett said...

I didn't notice anything on the HotA website about a greenbelt. What's the basic idea?

Switching to a slightly related gear, has anyone considered the possibility for a greater Midtown Greenbelt connecting various neighborhoods/commercial districts. If not, I'm throwing this out as an idea having done zero research.

Is there a conceivable connection possibility between Cooper Young, Overton Square, Overton Park, The Fairgrounds, and the Sears Crosstown building? From the Fairgrounds, such a greenbelt could be connected to the "Near East" (ie the University District/Chickasaw Gardens/Highpoint Terrace). From Crosstown, the greenbelt could move to Downtown.

It seems to be that much of the support for the Greater Memphis Greenline comes from these areas, so why not start local? You might be able to galvanize business and neighborhood groups behind the idea.

Who will pay for this? How do you make a greenway where none currently exists? How will you protect against highwaymen? Obviously, these are questions to be answered outside the speculative ether of blogistan.

I would like to see some G of M Google Earth Magic applied to the cause though.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Will Barrett said...

It's probably a bit gauche to answer my own questions in someone else's combox, but I'm warming up to the idea of running/biking trails within the North and East Parkway medians. Connectivity would be an issue (the Poplar intersection!), but I believe it could be done in a way that would by no means detract from the greenways themselves.

This is the best website I could find with pictures of Jemison Park in Mountain Brook, AL. Unfortunately, it's in Japanese, but I think the pictures tell the story.

4:52 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

will barrett, you might already know this, but East Parkway used to have horse trails that led from the Fairgrounds to Overton Park. There are still architectural fragments in the Park and maybe the Parkway from that. Obviously, the Union overpass put a definitive end to it.

Perhaps the mini-greenway (see updated link for answer to your question) could be an easy way to begin and sell people on more.

field guide, that space could hold so much. I do think the space needs buildings, especially that would hold residents. A multi-story, mixed use (including and maybe especially apartments) along Cooper and the other 3 sides would give an energy boost and visual update to OS.

11:38 PM  
Blogger RuralFreeDelivery said...

No question that parking lots suck and tend to drain the character out of pretty much any public area. To play devil's advocate though, having such a large, FREE public parking space is a bit of a necessary evil--especially if HotA is successful in many of its aims for bringing more and more people into Overton Square/midtown to access and enjoy the arts. Having that much surface parking will be critical to Playhouse's plans for an ambitious new theater space right across the street. While their new theater designs include an adjoining, multi-level parking garage, their existing space will continue to bring patrons every night, so the amount of auto traffic arriving at Overton Square could conceivably be double what it currently is on some nights. Memphis being Memphis, if people coming from East Memphis OR downtown can't find a place to park, they'll stay away.

Jackie has been outspoken in his desire not to see a trolley line going down Cooper that would connect at Madison. Such a line would service both downtown and Cooper-Young, providing Overton Square/Playhouse as a fun, terminal, dining/entertainment destination for both. Oh well.

Obviously the reality is that the parking lot will remain, so in my opinion, we'd be better directing our energy for finding more fun, appropriate uses for it, like those that field guide mention. Why not tent the thing once or twice a year and get a farmer's market going? Or a small music/theatre festival?

10:04 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

ruralfreedelivery, I'm not arguing against parking, even at that location. I'm pointing out that that parking lot, its ugliness and its energy-draining scope, undercuts the idea of an arts district, especially a pedestrian arts district (assuming you can have such a district that isn't pedestrian). It serves consumption in the convenience store model -- drive up, get your gallon of art, and drive away. That might serve an established venue like Playhouse well, but not a district.

Yet I don't think that Playhouse's interests and the district's are opposed here. You could easily build up 1/2 or more of the block and still have enough room in a lot/garage and on street to serve the patrons. But if Playhouse's interest is a suburban-style, highly-visible, mega surface parking lot, the arts district will suffer -- assuming that the other orgs and Midtown uniformly associate their interest with Playhouse's. Mr. Nichols' opposition to the trolley extension (do you know when that opposition occurred?) already shows the short-sighted danger of believing that what's good for Playhouse on the Square is always good for Midtown and Midtown arts.

I appreciate your devil's advocacy, but I'm afraid I don't cede the obviousness or the reality (as in permanence) of the asphalt atrocity. Once upon a time, it wasn't there. Once upon a time, it might not be again.

11:17 AM  
Blogger *** said...

I remember when they tore everything down in this lot, I kept hoping that the mini-grove of Catalpa trees would be left standing(in back of the little frame house that used to be in the lot across from Le Chardonnay) -- it would have made a perfect island in the middle of this asphalt sea! But, alas...

This city needs a totally green vision to turn things around. We have asked Bob Schrieber w/Greater Memphis Greenline, as well as the local Sierra Club board, to assist in preserving parkspace at the Fairgrounds, but we still need help and wonder why they have yet to step up. If the ongoing effort that rescued the Carousel & Pippin can save the currently padlocked park at the Fairgrounds w/the goal of using it as a test case for the Greater Memphis Greenline scenario, all the better!

4:26 PM  

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