Thursday, November 08, 2007

Big Box in the Square

Overton Square detail, Trimble Street, MemphisJeramia of OnMemphis linked to my previous post on Overton Square (thanks, Jeramia!) and noted a CA comment against a big box retailer moving into Overton Square. Quoth Jeramia in response:

That would be truly awful, just imagine all the Midtowners shopping and spending money so close to their homes. It’s frightening to imagine that those people might even walk or ride bikes to the store rather than hop in their cars and drive to Wolfchase.

I’m not sure how a big box retailer could possibly be worse than empty buildings.

I should say, it wasn't me who expressed the concern. Nor am I opposed to that use. I do shop from time to time in large retailers.

It's not the big that's the problem for me, it's the box.

they build it suburban style, with parking and the box exposed to the street, it adds nothing permanent to the neighborhood. Yes, we save a few miles driving, but we will still drive because we won't want to walk. The slight convenience will be overshadowed by the visual pollution and exposed dagger it permanently plunges in the Heart of the Arts.

If they build it to blend with classical midtown storefront, streetfront architecture, parking above or below the store, or at worst, recessed behind a masonry wall on a side street (see the parking lot of the Southern College of Optometry as an example), then it will add to the neighborhood and make it a better place. They could build a pedestrian entrance on Cooper that matches the storefronts on Madison, giving the complex two strong pedestrian entries, and a richer mixed use and look. Then they could make the driving entrances on either Monroe or Trimble. The pedestrian entrance from Madison could be from the clock tower over Trimble to the store. Fun for the kids, fun for me.

Shopping is a commodity.

Create value. Create place.

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Anonymous Jeramia said...

I agree with you. A building that fits the surrounding architecture is the ideal solution. The quality of the place will absolutely attract people to shop, eat, etc.

My post was really a response to the "I hate big-box retailers" reaction from the CA commenter.

For years, I've been told that the buildings making up Overton Square are falling down. I've heard people say that they're in disrepair because they're owned by an out-of-town group and that it would take a local group to spend the money to fix them.

I don't know if any of that is true, but I do know there are a lot of empty buildings in Overton Square. It seems to me that it's going to take a big name to bring enough people to the Square for other business to fill those giant empty (and possibly crumbling) spaces.

I would prefer if that wasn't the case just like the CA commenter, but I don't see the Square being filled any other way.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous b said...

Just to clarify, being that "CA Commenter," I didn't say I hate big-box retailers. I said I thought a big-box retailer would destroy the character of the area. If they were to develop the way Gates is describing, it might not be so bad. But as someone who lives nearby, I would hate for some fugly building and the attendant congestion to be added to my neighborhood.

I wish they could do something with Overton Square along the lines of Reston Town Center in Virginia. They have a couple of decent-sized, yet non-obtrusive parking garages, and a ton of smaller, yet upscale retailers that everybody walks to. Sort of like Carriage Crossing, but keeping the annoying vehicle traffic mostly contained to a few entry points.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Jeramia said...

Brilliant. I'm glad that we're on the same page. I looked at some photos of the Reston Town Center and it seems like a beautiful development.

6:13 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

I think this is what they call dialectic.

btw b, I would have linked to your comment but I don't think CA's comments are linkable. Thanks for pointing out Reston Town Center. Here's a cool picture.

10:42 PM  
Blogger irène said...

There are plenty of smaller-than-Target national retailers that would fit well as anchors in Overton Square, especially given the square footage in the spaces. For example I am thinking of Sur La Table, Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters, Crate and Barrel or CB2 etc. Just look at any upscale shopping center or mall and pick a few.

I think there is more than enough smaller national retail to mix with local businesses, the latter of which I would prefer to dominate any redevelopment as it was historically what made Overton Square such a draw.

8:18 AM  

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