Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Memphis Destroys

Reasons why the Regional Chamber's plan to destroy Francis Gassner's C&I Bank Building stinks:
  1. They're going to tear down the building, a very distinctive building.
    C&I Bank Building on the right, overlooking AutoZone Park

  2. They're going to replace it with a surface parking lot. Not with another building, not with a parking garage, but with a surface parking lot!

    Maybe there are no nearby surface parking lots.

    surface parking lots in close proximity to C&I Bank Building

  3. The architect of the building is the late Francis Gassner, the namesake architect of the Memphis AIA's premier award. The award "honors architects and others from associated businesses for their contributions to the quality of the built environment in Memphis."

  4. The surface parking lot will be diagonally across Madison from the AIA's headquarters.

  5. AIA's view before demolitionAIA's view after demolition
    A spaceless insult to the AIA's award and their vision.

  6. The Chamber's pitch, by Nick Clark, chair of the Chamber's facilities committee:
    "It would be a vacant piece of land that wouldn't be a detriment to Downtown as well as provide an asset in terms of providing parking for AutoZone Park and surrounding buildings, including First Tennessee," Clark said.
    (emphasis mine)

    He adds:
    "The challenge we face is if we make a choice to preserve this building how does it impact our ability to preserve surrounding buildings?"
    Does that mean that the Chamber will make it a mission of theirs to preserve the Sterick Building? If so, then I retract everything most everything some of what I write here. But is that what it means? Or is the statement using the Sterick Building as an architectural shield to get something they want?

  7. This approval (or apology) by one of Memphis' architects and leaders:

    Frank Ricks, founding member of Looney Ricks Kiss architects, said he understands both sides of the issue.

    "In one sense I'd hate to see it torn down, but for years I've thought that piece was probably an important component to the redevelopment to that section of Madison Avenue," Ricks said.

    Ricks faced a similar issue with the development of AutoZone Park and the surrounding neighborhood, which required the destruction of historic stables.

    "You hate to see any building that was significant torn down but in order to get the ballpark built we had to take down the old stables on Monroe," he said. "And look what happened because of it."
    What happened was not a surface parking lot. If the Chamber has an architectural peer of AutoZone Park envisioned, they should/would lead with that, not "a vacant piece of land that wouldn't be a detriment".

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Blogger fearlessvk said...

depressing. THERE IS ALREADY A CRAPLOAD OF PARKING IN DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS. anyone who is clambering desperately for more parking is just too lazy to walk 2-3 blocks from their car to their destination.

6:51 AM  
Anonymous fieldguidetomemphis said...


i like the maps, too.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...


12:14 PM  
Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...

hey there's good news on the flyer website

2:49 PM  
Blogger *** said...

Let's stop this demolition-vision from happening -- we've already got (thanks to Mike McCarthy) at least 70 hours of film for the documentary, tentatively (and in total irony) called, "Destroy Memphis." I certainly do not want to film the destruction of this example of hometown pride architecture!!!

3:13 PM  
Blogger tennreb said...

This is ridiculous. The only reason they want to do this is to make money off of surface parking. I'd halfway respect them if they just came out and said so. But they choose to lie so they don't look like a bunch of jerks.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clean up memphis

3:16 PM  
Blogger tigerjeb said...

the building should be readapted for the U of M's new arch program. the exact same reasoning that is bringing about the rebirth of the customs house for the law school can be applied here.

10:33 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

that was one of the good ideas floated last week. Moving the Arch program into a Memphis icon would be good for the icon and a real jumpstart for the program (as I believe the Law School will take a big step forward in reputation when it opens in its building).

2:06 AM  
Blogger Peter W. said...

Gates, you have put together a great piece here.

There is an obvious (but haunting) irony that strikes me about all of this. The chamber once recognized the C&I Bank Building as a locally significant, architecturally iconic, and readily adaptable for a new use.

How do I know this? Because they bought the building and planned to make it their own. Compelling renderings were produced showing a lively and colorful scene.

If the chamber does in fact intend on selling the building in the coming weeks, and more surface parking is the result, it seems that they will have done the city that they serve a great disservice (btw, everyone should see the aerial photo diagram of surface parking in the vicinity.)

In my opinion the chamber owes this process a realistic time schedule, a "stay of execution" if you will. If this building was good enough for them, surely it has a viable prospective future. Surely, given a few months (lets start with a 12 month window...), it will land a tenant that contributes more to the local economy than more surface parking. Even if you aren't in love with the building, it is contribution to the local economy that is their own raison d'ĂȘtre, no?

Surely maintenance and taxes are nothing compared to what they have already spent on purchase and moth-balled design at this property. Let's find a purchaser who will OCCUPY this building!

11:44 AM  

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