Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Demolition of Cumberland Presbyterian Planned

I recently got word from Memphis Heritage that Chik-Fil-A plans to demolish the Cumberland Presbyterian building on Union and replace it with one of its restaurants.

Judging by the standard Chik-Fil-A restaurants along strip corridors,

it would be a major architectural step down from the present building.

They would probably have to grade the site, destroying the hillock that the present building sits on.

It would be right in front of a crosswalk for schoolchildren attending Idlewild Elementary.

People speeding in and out of the drive-thru, cellphones in one hand, tasty chicken biscuits in the other, will be zipping through that crosswalk. (disclosure: I have relatives who attend Idlewild. They don't use that crosswalk but I know many kids and families that do).

The site has a couple of neighboring high-quality buildings that have been constructed or renovated in the past year.

One of them, the Memphis Area Teachers Credit Union,

was built on the site of a recently demolished Midtown bungalow. However, its own visual personality is at least the equal of the departed. Will the Chik-Fil-A restaurant do the same? Will it honor the investments its neighbors have made by, at the very least, not subtracting value?

I want to make it clear that I have no problem with Chik-Fil-A as a business. Judging by the comments I got in my earlier post, their food creates loyal customers.

Bring good food to a good building, the Cumberland Presbyterian building.

Details very soon on how we might make this happen.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Café Eclectic Opens, Starbucks Closes

Okay, Memphis java chain store lovers, Starbuck's will be closed tonight. Use the opportunity to acquaint yourself with Memphis' newest coffee house, Café Eclectic, which opened yesterday.

The entrance.

McLean-side table, looking over the playing fields of Snowden School.

The coffee bar.

A great place.

Or you can check out one of Memphis' other locally-owned coffee houses. Two of my favorites, by my proximity and their imagination, are Otherlands and Java Cabana.

Support the businesses and creativity of local entrepeneurs.

Update: per Fearlessvk's question, Café Eclectic's hours are presently 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. They plan to be open later in the near future.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Zoo Leaders Escape and Maul Nature

The only thing I can add to Naomi Van Tol's eloquent Letter to the Editor, which denounces the Memphis Zoo's hypocrisy of promoting nature while destroying it mere yards away, are the pictures below.

From above before...

And after...

Nothing left alive within the fences.

Saruman and the Orcs and other great defilers from history and fiction would be very proud of the Zoo!

Meanwhile mere yards away, sage words for zoo visitors.



But don't look backwards from the Amphitheatre...

Cause you might see once living parts of earth...

dismembered and left for dead by stewards of nature.


Maybe Chief Seattle can tell us.

Here he is guarding the Sacred Cave of the Donors.

Just read below his lines.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Family Art Night at Peabody Elementary

detail from Peabody Elementary School, Cooper-Young, Memphis
I wanted to touch base with you about Peabody's Family Art Night. Again, the date is set for March 11, 2008 @ 6:00pm. The event will be held at Peabody Elementary which is located at 2086 Young Ave. in the Cooper-Young community.

Family Art Night was started last year, as a vision by me to promote Arts in the schools. As you may know, when budget cuts come along, the Arts are oftentimes the first to go. Also, some people view the Arts as simply a creative past-time and do not understand the value it has in impacting a student's learning. My aim was to show that despite these woes, discipline-based art education was still attainable in the classroom. I worked to show teachers how to integrate art into the regular curriculum. Also, I strived to show parents the importance of art when it comes their child's education, and I wanted everyone to walk away with an awareness and appreciation of the Arts.

Furthermore, Family Art Night consists of stationed-based activities for the students; a Meet-and-Greet with local artists and art organizations; and special performances. All in all, it is a night where the Arts come alive!

Many people, both students and parents, commented on how they thoroughly enjoyed the event and looked forward to it again.

This year, the theme for the event will be "Passport to the Arts", which coincides with Peabody's International Studies Program and we have added a "traveling artists" component whereas artists will create artwork and the New Ballet Ensemble School dancers will show various ballet techniques.

Artfully yours,
Regina Boyd
"Every child is an artist..." -Pablo Picasso

I met Regina and heard about this great event at the CODA Conference last fall.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Public Life in Los Angeles

lightpost and palm tree, Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, Los AngelesI have been in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula for the past week. Although the pueblo had internet access, I used it rarely.

Instead I walked and drove around alot and read (not finished) Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She had something to say of Los Angeles in 1961:

Lowly, random and unpurposeful as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life may grow.

Los Angeles is an extreme example of a metropolis with little public life, depending mainly instead on contacts of a more private social nature.

True perhaps in 1961, but a lot less true in 2008. From what I saw, the street life of Los Angeles has become very rich. (An exception: the urban renewed parts of downtown Los Angeles. They are clean, modern and neat, but have few pedestrians.)

I think Los Angeles is moving from suburban sprawl towards major clusters of density based on mass-transit and neighborhood attraction. And with it is coming the strong public street life that Jacobs championed.

Memphis has much to learn from Los Angeles' transformation.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is Mud Island Part of the Promenade?

Roy Harrover thinks it is. The architect of Mud Island, the Memphis College of Art and Memphis International Airport says so in a letter to today's Commercial Appeal:

Before expressing firm opinions on the Mud Island River Park inclusion in the Greg Ericson proposal, city officials and representatives should realize that the park cannot be used for commercial purposes.

The park property north of Union was added legally by accretion to the Promenade, which lies between Front Street and the Mississippi River. This open-space promenade was dedicated to the citizens of Memphis by the city's founders.

Roy Harrover


(links mine)

Startling, at least for me.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Memphis Filmmaking News

Some great, good and bad news:
  • The West Coast Turnaround's track "The Gear Jam" has been picked up as part of the soundtrack for a motion picture. They don't have details yet, but congratulations are in order.


  • ArtsMemphis is sponsoring a film contest, Our Vibe. Our City. On Film. It's a good idea, with some great prize money.

    They do note that "for each film entry, we are asking you to make a small donation of $15 to support the local arts community." Anyone who makes films in Memphis, especially one highlighting Memphis art, by definition supports the local arts community. It's great to make a donation to further support the local arts community, but I don't think it should be a requirement. It makes it harder to support themselves and their art.

    (imho, any competition's entry fees should pay for only the strictest shipping and handling costs for the media entered. With the progress of the web and cheap digital media, those costs are tending toward zero; entry fees should follow that curve. Artists shouldn't have to pay for a party they might not get invited to.)

    A caveat, a trifle. Check it out.

  • Last Train to Memphis' Shorts Fest on WYPL has stopped production. The Shorts Fest featured locally-produced independent films and was a great tree-roots creative resource that furthered the cause of Memphis filmmaking.

    LTTM hints that it wasn't a voluntary decision.
    The shorts fest had a lot of fans, and we know we will get a lot of people wanting to know why the demise of the shorts fest. All we can say is send email's to council members, library management, local officials, news media and mayors. Also read the Memphis Flyer article for this last week......

    (link mine)

    It doesn't make sense to push a self-produced show (zero cost for the Library) off the air.

    More of Memphis' fertile ground left forced fallow.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Beyond the Valley of the Creative Class

sidewalk-level creativity, Cooper-Young, MemphisAfter a false start, I have finished reading Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class. Despite my earlier misgivings, I found that Florida places his creative class in the vanguard of the creativity-driven changes in our lives and economy, not as a static uber-class of hipsters shipped in to make backwater polities more attractive.

He writes:
Some people find the very notion of the Creative Class elitist. But the existence of a large and growing new class of highly paid creative workers is not the problem; in fact, I submit it is a healthy sign. What is elitist -- and inequitable, inefficient, and even dangerous -- is the persistence of a social order in which some people are considered natural creators, while others exist to serve them, carry out their ideas and tend to their personal needs. Keeping creativity as the province of the select few is a real prescription for trouble of all sorts, from injustice to inefficiency.
This social order is precisely what persists in Memphis. And, ironically, this order champions the Creative Class for these very exclusivist reasons. We have the inequity, inefficiency, trouble and danger to prove it.

We should stop talking about the Creative Class. Around here there's a 90% chance that any enthusiastic mention is a gilding of the same old shit. I blame the word "class."

Instead let's make Memphis a democratically creative city. If Florida is right, the Creative Class will be there, but so will the rest of us.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mixing Neighborhoods: Cooper-Young and the Fairgrounds

How will the Fairgrounds development mix with adjacent neighborhoods?

detail from historic poster for Tri-State Fair, the Mid-South Fair's earlier nameAs the Fairgrounds, it was a place of special events, once-a-year, once-a-month events with no residents. Other than Fairview School, it had no regular daily users. Plus, its sea of surface parking took away the visual, spatial joy of walking even though it has some great buildings. Only during the Fair, when magic carnies built a City out of parking lots, was a walking, physical connection restored.

The main entrances show the physical traces of the Fairgrounds separateness. None are aligned with the grid of streets from the neighborhoods surrounding. On Southern, the Coliseum entrance dead ends into the railroad, on Central into the CBU parking lot, on East Parkway into Cooper Young homes. I don't think there is an entrance on Hollywood. Chain link fences define most of its perimeter.

Will the new Fairgrounds maintain its historic separation, or will it intentionally and physically make a stronger connection with adjacent neighborhoods, becoming more porous? While I wouldn't want it to be sliced and diced rationally, obliviously, by Memphis' auto grid, I think a greater physical connection would make the development better and stronger for both itself and neighbors.

looking east down Young Street toward the Fairgrounds, Cooper-Young, MemphisA good place to start connecting would be the eastern terminus (soon to be connectus) of Cooper-Young's Young Street. It dead ends at East Parkway into the Fairgrounds fence that separated the free world from Libertyland. A walker coming from Cooper-Young has to take a left to the north and walk 100 yards to get to the Fairgrounds entrance.

Raise the dead end into a live gateway. Surround the gateway with tree- and Pippin-height multi-use buildings that attract use and provide energy and market. The way of the gate doesn't have to be a street, but could be, maybe should be, a pedestrian path. The gateway should provide a visual draw for those walking or driving down Young, or stopped at the light on East Parkway, via the design and height of the buildings and gateway, framing the the Zippin Pippin in the background. Something visible to a walker from as far as Young and McLean would be great, if not impossible.

The new and the old can meet and grow at East Parkway.

the crossroads of Cooper-Young and the Fairgrounds

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Branding the Public

It's official. The Commercial Appeal's Chris Peck has called the public a "herd".

He tells us what he really thinks in Sunday's editorial that functions as part of the local building industry's marketing campaign.
The public, of course, often operates in a herd mentality, thundering to the worst-case scenario because everyone else is going there.

Herd, hear this. There is a plausible alternative.

Not just operates, but "of course" operates in a herd mentality. Well, at least it explains the many apologies and advertorials that Peck has made for Memphis' rich and powerful.

I think Peck might be the AntiWells.

The Great Ida B. Wells

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Death and Life of a Blogger and Memphian

The Memphis blogosphere got some heartbreaking news tonight. Marcus Bulb, the writer for the blog Adventures in Memphis, died in a car crash over the Christmas holidays.

I didn't know Marcus outside of his blog, but the posted sentiments of Marcus' family and friends are mine as well.

Cheers, Marcus. You made Chicago, Memphis and the world a better place.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Anonymous Coward's Visions of Memphis: #2305