Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Memphis Retooled

I've been watching the Machine Shop re/development for the past year and a half.

They took a simple commercial facade, located in a crook of South Main, as a frontend

The Machine Shop

and built a new development into the backend.

The Machine Shop

The Machine Shop

A nice combo by John Pruett Architects of traditional and modern, each giving value and texture to the other. My only complaint: I wish they had kept the previous paint job, including the commercial painted sign, to help the original facade pop out more.

Here's another facade, of much greater value, hopefully awaiting its own retooling.

This shouldn't be a South Main thing. The benefits of reuse, reimagination, remix are tangible, visual.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Memphis Pops Tonight and Tomorrow

More details about the great lineup this week's Flyer.

Tomorrow night the Warble play. Until the ArtsMemphis Our Vibe, Our City, On Film competition I'd never heard of the Warble but ended up voting for their film, the Warble Atelier,

which came in second. Along the way, I also discovered this video.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Farmers Market on Front

Downtown's Memphis Farmers Market has been such a big success for downtown, I wonder if you could build on it, literally.

Presently MFM's great energy is bottled up behind the parking lot that surrounds it.

But if you moved the bus shelter to the west, about 50 feet,

so that it was flush with Front Street,

the Farmers Market could really energize Front. All without parking loss.

And with a more visible MFM home and energetic Front Street, perhaps MFM could expand its operations, slowly making it a persistent market and an incubating showcase for fledgling retail entrepeneurs. And to give it an even more permanent presence, you could build a corner office which could be a demo space for the entrepeneurs, a coffee house for the colder months, administrative offices, and an architectural advertisement for the Market.

Just thinking how Memphis can connect social energy and urban space to make more of both.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Go to the Park!

Being my usual underachieving self, I haven't updated much recently. I did write something for the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park however. It's the results of an experiment me and a crackerjack Gates Of Memphis Research team performed last month.

In an acorn, what temperature difference does the Old Forest make vs. nearby urbanized areas?

Kids on Old Forest Hike

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sustainable Shelby's Call to Action: The Audio

If you weren't able to attend last Tuesday's Sustainable Shelby's Call to Action, including the keynote from Sustainable Urbanism's Doug Farr, you can listen to them here,

Mayor Wharton's Opening Remarks

Steve Ethridge on Sustainable Shelby Polling

Mayor Wharton's Introduction to Doug Farr

Doug Farr on Sustainable Urbanism (If you can only listen to a piece, listen to this)

Closing Remarks.

Whether it's a Sustainable Shelby recommendation or not, it would be interesting to see an existing community or communities try to attain LEED-ND certification. I think a partnership of Cooper-Young and Glenview would be cool.


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Friday, July 11, 2008

Empty Playgrounds

Court SquareMy answer to this tweet from jccvi:
@gatesofmemphis driving all over the city, I see brand new empty playgrounds. It seems like an indictment, though I'm not sure of whom or what
I swipe from Jane Jacobs
Conventionally, neighborhood parks or parklike open spaces are considered boons conferred on the deprived populations of cities. Let us turn this thought around, and consider city parks deprived places that need the boon of life and appreciation conferred on them. This is more nearly in accord with reality, for people do confer use on parks and make them successes -- or else withhold use and doom parks to rejection and failure.
Too much is expected of city parks. Far from transforming any essential quality in their surroundings, far from uplifting their neighborhoods, neighborhood parks themselves are directly and drastically affected by the way the neighborhood acts upon them.
As true of Overton as it is Riverside and will be of Shelby Farms, a park in itself will not fix a neighborhood or district's problems -- density, walkability, diversity, dullness. Those problems will spill over to the success of parks.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Memphis Bicycle Events and Sites

Bands Not Bombs ConcertTuesday, July 8, 2:30-4:00 p.m.
Memphis Botanic Gardens
Sustainable Shelby Agenda Public Presentation will announce that creating bicycle paths and installing "Share the Road" with bicyclists signs is in the top ten priorities for the county.

Tuesday, July 8, 6 p.m.
First Congo Church
The Cooper Young Community Association will host its monthly meeting on the deck outside of Revolutions here at First Congregational. The topic will be "Making Cooper Young Memphis' First Bike Friendly Neighborhood." They will have sno-cones. What more do you need?

Thu, Jul 10, 6:30pm – 8:00pm There will be a meeting at CBHS on July 10th to discuss a proposal to paint bike lane stripes on Shady Grove from Yates to Wolf River Boulevard and also on Brierview from Shady Grove to Walnut Grove. Revolutions has organized a ride from First Congregational to Christian Brothers High School where the meeting will be held. The ride will leave from Revolutions at 5:15 p.m. in order to make it to the meeting by the start time of 6:30 p.m.. Please join us, or head over to CBHS at 6:30 p.m. Attendance and riding time count towards earning volunteer hours at Revolutions. Don't forget a blinky light and a helmet if you'd like to ride with us.

All the Time
Go to Memphis Bike News and Views for a calendar of Memphis biking events.


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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sustainable Shelby Call to Action!

Sustainable Shelby
Call to Action!
Tuesday, July 8
2:30 - 4:00 p.m.
Memphis Botanic Garden
750 Cherry Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38117

You are invited to join Mayor A C Wharton in launching the Sustainable Shelby Agenda, our community's first comprehensive agenda that is equal parts sustainability, smart growth, green building, and more. This agenda was produced from committees and public polling that converged to create detailed recommendations for a sustainable future.

This Sustainable Shelby Call to Action meeting will announce the agenda for the future and next steps to accomplish them. Special remarks will be made by Doug Farr, author of Sustainable Urbanism, the seminal book that set the context for our local agenda.

Please invite your friends and colleagues to be part of this history-making meeting.

As background you might listen to this great Smart City Radio interview with Doug Farr (my favorite parts: moving past the widget, stop trying to sell sacrifice, and the 2030 challenge).

Maxfield Parrish in Midtown

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fight Flight Blight

CCL Label Building DemolitionI read 2 days ago in the Memphis Business Journal that CCL Label was destroying their former downtown Memphis home. CCL didn't want to maintain the building, which is diagonally across from Autozone Park on Union, so they're bulldozing it.

I emailed Jeff Sanford, head of the Center City Commission, to express my opposition. He responded very quickly,
Unfortunately, there is no legal prohibition against this demolition. We are most concerned about conversion of this property to surface parking. We have conveyed our concerns to the property owner's broker. We are told the demolition is being done to reduce the increasing cost of maintaing a vacant building, and that the surface lot, which must meet certain code requirements, is an interim use until the property can be sold for a higher and better use. Small consolation although there is some hope because we are seeing considerable developer interest in this and other properties along the south side of Union west of Danny Thomas.

So this means that despite all the private and public capital invested, and the hard work of people like the CCC, a landlord can knock down a downtown building for no better reason they don't want to be bothered. After hearing over and over again from urbanists like Jeff Speck and Maurice Cox about the importance of walkability, we still have no protection from willful blightings that leave walking dead zones that inhibit commercial development (e.g., the Edge).

Without protection, downtown's development is at the mercy of speculative landlords who sustain value from their neighbors' investments even as their own cheap disinvestments subtract value from everyone else.

Meanwhile, a mile north, the CCC works on a plan to resuscitate the Pinch district, except that "one of the challenges to development in the area is 25 percent of its land parcels is comprised of vacant lots, parking lots or is home to vacant buildings, according to the CCC." The lion's share are lots created by willful, unchecked speculative destruction around the time the Pyramid was built.

We plan to fight after what we have no plan to fight before.

But fighting the blight after is expensive and slow.

Less expensive would be to fight it before, by denying demolition permits to anyone not in possession of a legitimate building permit for an approved use. A vacant lot or parking lot is not an approved use. We should add this at the very least to zoning for Memphis' South Central Business Improvement District.

CCL Label Building DemolitionAt this point the destruction is at least half done. However if they want the interim use of a parking lot, they will still need a special exception that is subject to many conditions that must be approved by the City Council. I would like to remind the City Council that not only has this landlord destroyed a building on a gateway to downtown, they have fled the city taking their jobs and taxes with them. Memphis owes them nothing special.

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