Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year's Eve Gala and Beer Bust: Rozelle Recovery Fund

The Other Side of the Square

After many, many, many posts about the self-inflicted decline of Overton Square, I wanted to point out an alternative that exists diagonally across from the beast. The alternative:

Maggie's Pharm.

Small, personal, home-grown, unique. Its smells, spaces, textures, light are classic Midtown, young and old at the same time.

Yes, it's a business that's been around since the 1970s, but I present it not as a goal in itself (although I absolutely think you should shop there) but as an ignored model for Memphis' economic future. The mega-vision that sees either empty or $250 million investment, parking lot or big box, will always overlook the simple and textured, even when its plainly visible from a failed and empty stretch of black asphalt.

As a city, we should learn from businesses, places, like Maggie's Pharm.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Graffiti for the Season

On the playground at Peabody Park.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

TheoGeo on the Bryant Park Project

Go see TheoGeo's audio slideshow, Where I Live Now: Memphis, featured on NPR's Bryant Park Project.

Great voice for radio.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Setbacks for A Creative Memphis

Got 2 pieces of heartbreaking news at last Saturday's Li'l Film Fest.
  1. This was the last Li'l Film Fest, at least as run by Live From Memphis. Sarah Fleming, part of the diynamic duo that runs the great and creative LFM, announced that she had to get a job that paid health benefits. How this affects their other work, beside the Fest, I'm not sure. Information Bureau (the juried winner of the LFF 8) reports that there is talk to keep the Fest going. He also provides a good description of the spirit of the LFF.

  2. The Media Co-Op is moving out of its space at the First Congo after January. The mixture of Cooper-Young, the cool and cavernous First Congo and the Co-Op made this one of my favorite places in Memphis. At this point, they don't have a new home. The future sounds, maybe looks, very uncertain for the Co-Op.
Tagging these 2 institutions: creativity, DIY, digital, place, fun.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Beating the Drums A Little Faster at Madison and Cooper

It sure looks like they're getting ready to tear down Overton Square. Talking about the outflux of tenants from the main building, leasing agent James Raspberry says:
"It gives us more flexibility when dealing with potential developers so that we're not restricted by tenants in the building," James Rasberry, a principal with Lewis & Rasberry, a real estate firm which handles leasing and sales at Overton Square, says. "We can move pretty quickly if we have the right person wanting to buy the area and needed the additional space for their development plans."

The website of the present owner, Fisher Capital, states pretty clearly what the potential developers might be:
Overton Square is a 90,000-square-foot retail/restaurant/entertainment complex in Memphis, TN. One of the hottest spots in Memphis during the 1970s, the Square needed new ownership to recapture its former prominence. Partnering with local businessmen, Fisher Capital purchased the property, which is currently being redeveloped with a new big-box tenant.
(emphasis mine)

I don't know how current that information is, but there it is.

I'm not against a big retailer in that space. How it looks outside will be so much more important to Memphis than the business model inside. However, I should point out that big box retailers have gotten their name from the artlessness of their form. If they can transcend their naming and build something that is Midtown and urban, I'm not opposed.


the main building of Overton Square, built in the late 70s, MemphisHat tip to tnse on the Urban Planet Memphis board for pointing out the Memphis Business Journal article.

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Friday, December 14, 2007


Live From Memphis is holding its 8th Li'l Film Fest, Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 2pm at the MeDiA co-op (1000 S. Cooper).
The theme of Li'l Film Fest 8 is RESOLUTIONS, you know, the New Year's kind. I know, I know, you will cut back on the partying and staying out so late, you will exercise more and loose weight, you will remember to call your mother on her birthday, you will stop watching so much television, you will eat more veggies, and of course you'll spend more time with the dog. But surely you can manage to squeeze in a few hours to make a film, right...?

Regarding resolutions, I made a movie, but didn't finish it in time for the LFF. I was rendering it through and past the deadline for the Fest entries.

It's another draft of my Zippin Pippin movie. I haven't posted it to YouTube yet 'cause I want to add sound, but here are some frames.

Up the first hill, Zippin Pippin, Memphis FairgroundsGoing up the 1st Hill

top of the first hill, Zippin Pippin, Memphis FairgroundsRounding the curve at the top of the 1st Hill.

the last turnaround, looking west, Zippin Pippin, Memphis FairgroundsTurning back around on the Last Hill.

It's fun doing this. As I think of things to add and figure out how to do them, I will make improvements. Besides adding the lights of a nearby carnival, I'd like to add the beautiful Fairview School.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Love and Technology and the Possibilities of Memphis

We have always loved one another. We're human. It's something we're good at. But up until recently, the radius and half-life of that affection have been quite limited.

With love alone, you can get a birthday party together. Add coordinating tools, you can write an operating system.

In the past we would do little things for love, but big things, big things required money.

Now, we can do big things for love.

Tom Lee Statue, Memphis Riverfront

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whose Parking Garage Is It?

Poag & McEwen project on Highland, Memphis
At the University Neighborhood meeting tonight, I was able to ask Steve Barlow, Executive Director of the University Neighborhood Development Corp, about the parking garage that's part of the Highland Street TIF.

Q. Who will own the parking garage that the TIF pays for?

A. The public will own it. Probably via the Community Redevelopment Agency that will issue the bonds.

Q. What about the fees from the parking garage -- who receives them?

A. The public agency that owns the garage.

This is good news. The TIF will pay for improvements to the public infrastructure, and will not finance private assets with public money. The blight designation is still a major stretch, but the risk of corruption is much less if you remove private grants/public money from the process. (check out Smart City for more analysis of TIF risk).

It looks like an interesting project.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

3 Things About The Stratum on Highland

the Stratum from MyndersBecause it's transforming and using the space around it, the Stratum is one of the most interesting buildings going up in Memphis right now.
  1. Although it took the place of 2 or 3 bungalows on Highland, it didn't keep their residential offset. Not even a perfunctory strip of landscaping (thank God!). They're building right up to the edge of the sidewalk on Highland and Mynders.

    It's an invitation to walk, down Mynders to the University and down Highland to the restaurants, bars and shops.

  2. It has an interesting (and rarely seen in Memphis) mid-rise size. About the height of a mature oak tree. I think will add significant density, presence and energy to the area without overpowering.

  3. The Stratum from HighlandThey have built it inside an existing commercial district, which is also rare in Memphis. What they're doing on Highland, smart developers should do in Overton Square, Cooper-Young, even Beale Street. Let the residential and commercial cross-pollinate.
I think it will be a fun place to live.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

What Has Happened at 100 S. Main?

When the Center City Commission announced the winning development team at 100 S. Main, this was the projected vision.

Now, this is on the Commission's 100 S. Main page:

It's like one those heartbreaking before and after shots of historic Memphis.

(The building at top could be the first Memphis building torn down before it was even built. The building below should have a historic marker out front honoring its predecessor.)

Since the CCC's Jeff Sanford "cited architectural context as one of the reasons they chose the five-story concept," and the context is late 19th and early 20th century, you have to wonder, how did the retro-70s design get there? And will it stand?

Dearth of people and foot traffic, and a related homeless concentration, has been a major problem on that stretch of Main. I don't think that a cold, passionless design will help solve those problems.

Via the Urban Planet Memphis forum, where there's rare agreement that the the project has taken a downgrade.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Memphis FassBackward: Memphis and the World

Memphis FassBackward:  The City of Yesterday...Tomorrow!Just a few weeks after a historically misplaced series on the Boll Weevil, the Commercial Appeal has calcified its position as cheerleader and publicist for Memphis' status quo with the series, "Memphis and the World".

Rather than investigating how the world has changed us, is changing us, can change us, should change us, for better and sometimes worse, it takes Memphis as it is, has been for at least 35 years*, and goes off on a grand tour. Their plan**: send back picture postcards of travels with major institutions of Memphis. As associates of those companies, we will identify with them and passively make their successes our own. We will become associates of Memphis.

The world is changing us -- it should change us. We're not passive in the change, we have the ability to cultivate the change. That is the story. The Commercial Appeal ignores it, and us, and a future that isn't the past, by venturing off on an atavistic ass-kissing holiday.

*they could have plotted the series in the mid-seventies, given the age of the institutions in its lineup -- Bellevue in India, Elvis in Israel, Dunavant in Zambia, COGIC in South Africa, St. Jude in Brazil, Knights Templar in Haiti, FedEx in China.

that was the plan, which has been a major source of controversy. The beauty of the first installment, Bellevue in India, is its subversion of that plan. Trevor Aaronson doesn't send us a postcard, he sends us a "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Sierra Club 1st Thursday Members Gathering

outside the visitors center, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Shelby County, TennesseeThis Thursday, December 6, 5:30-7:00pm at Otherlands, 641 South Cooper, the Sierra Club is having its first Thursday members gathering. Sierra Club members, activists and friends can meet in a casual setting to talk about issues and interests. Contact Juliet Jones at 901.374.0582 or email for more information.

Check out the Sierra Club - Chickasaw Group's calendar for other events and activities.

It's not posted there yet, but I think there will be an Old Forest (Overton Park) Hike this Saturday.

Also, the Old Forest Hike on the 2nd Saturday in May will be a snake hike. Tell the kids and mark your calendars.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

This Place

Glory in the uniqueness of place.

Gerould Wilhelm of Conservation Design Forum,
speaking at a lecture hosted by the
Mississippi River Corridor - TN

the Mississippi River at the foot of Beale, Memphis

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