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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Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...

and now that memphis roller derby is moving to the youth building there will be regular events happening at the fairgrounds!

10:21 AM  
Blogger jccvi said...

One of my favorite features of the many Fairgrounds redevelopment proposals is the idea of a long mall stretching from East Parkway to the Liberty Bowl. I suppose you could set it diagonally from a Young entrance, though the Stadium would look as good from that approach angle. I think perhaps a 3 gate strategy on East Parkway would work, with a protected zebra crosswalk at each.

You could put the main entrance leading into the Stadium right at Nelson. Another set of gates, leading to the Kroc Center, could have a protected crosswalk at Elzey. The third entrance would be right at Young. I think this would be a good fit for some sort of mixed residential and commercial zone, with another mixed zone next to the Children's Museum with crosswalk access to CBU.

12:57 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Frank Ricks proposed was kind of a mall/festival green that stretched from the original East Parkway entrance, towards a rebuilt Shelby County building, with the Liberty Bowl hovering in the background (which incidentally I think will become a much more striking structure as we move away from the 1960s; it's much nicer looking than Titans Stadium, which looks like high school bleachers super-sized to me). That's the only site specific idea I've really heard from a juiced party.

11:30 PM  

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