Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Learning from Carnies

Lessons from the Mid-South Fair and Cooper-Young Festival about creating energy in permanent places:
  • Not just walkable -- walk required.
ride at the Mid-South Fair, Memphis
  • Strong and fun visuals, coming from everything and everywhere.

  • Strong and pleasant smells coming from restaurants and vendors.

  • Use variety.
Funnel Cake -- Deep-Fried Goodness, Mid-South Fair, Memphis
  • People variety.

  • Cost variety.

  • Loss leaders -- something you can do and see without spending money or lots of it.
Moon Bounce with dog theme, 2006 Cooper-Young Festival, Memphis
  • Lots of kids stuff, including animals, playgrounds, art, spaces, etc. Doesn't mean you can't have "adult" stuff, but kids should be encouraged.

  • Lots of micro-to-small structures and spaces.

  • Lots of micro-to-small businesses.

  • Closeness of people.
  • Fun.
lights of a ride at the Mid-South Fair, Memphis
  • Lighting that encourages fun.

  • Anything that encourages all of the above.
Shriners at the 2006 Cooper-Young FestivalLessons to avoid:
  • People drive from all over Memphis to support the Fair and Festivals. A permanent place cannot consistently depend on people coming from all over the metropolitan area to support its energy. I just don't think you can sustain that drive-up market permanently (see Overton Square).

  • Depending on a wider, drive-up market will create parking pressures and attendant mindsets, which will undo the places (see Overton Square).
How do you create energy without requiring half that half the city drive up?
  1. start with a small place. Make it smaller if possible.

  2. Encourage a density of activity, and expand from there.

  3. have many festivals and interlocking events per year. Think of ways to make a separate event part of the larger community. With interlocking events, the participants should walk, walk, walk! The more walking connections created between events in your neighborhood the more energy and the more people will want to live in your neighborhood. Which will help...
  4. mini-city at the 2006 Cooper-Young Festival, Memphis
  5. encourage greater residential density and variety, immediately around the neighborhood commercial centers, especially in the empty lots. Memphis has lots and lots of empty lots. You won't get density and closeness if you tear down standing structures and leave empty space.

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Anonymous fieldguidetomemphis said...

it's like a curse. when i drive around memphis, all i see are parking lots. they were invisible to me until i started reading your blog :)


a lot.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cooper Young is a good example, although Downtown is starting to get it as well. There are a mix of uses and building sizes, making it a good walkable community in parts.

4:17 PM  
Blogger irène said...

One fantastic use of empty parking lots (or at least a bordering decor for some) are FOOD CARTS/TRUCKS and accompanying small tables and chairs. These were in great use and demand in Portland, Oregon. They provided cheap and varied foods to mostly Downtown denizens but trucks popped up all over town, particularly Mexican taqueria trucks. A fair does not need to be held to have a successful use of these for showcasing street foods as well as fostering a small sense of community.

8:03 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

fieldguide, damn me and my infernal parking lots! Still, I hope that anyone who reads this blog will reflexively let out a bronx cheer when they hear someone in Memphis complain about parking.

irène, an idea to be stolen. What I like about the small and/or portable is that it can increase the variety while adding flexibility and lowering risk for retail entrepeneurs, especially while Memphis tries to build up density.

11:15 PM  

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