Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Success in 2008

I have only one top Memphis event of 2008. Only one because a) I'm lazy, and b) people from the future have assured me it dwarfs everything else. I have this:

Term Limits added to the City Charter.

This change was a systematic and democratic repudiation, approved by a hugely overwhelming majority of voters, of Memphis' historic (and royally fucked-up) paternalism.

The change will create more leaders, and not just political leaders. The more leaders we produce, the more creative, dynamic, honest, responsive, prosperous -- greater -- Memphis will be.

Here's to a civic Memphis that looks more like a Mississippian mound than an Egyptian pyramid.

Public Art on South Main

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 3 Rules of Urban Design

David Sucher's simple, elegant list to guide us, judge us, as we (re)build Memphis.
  1. Build to the sidewalk (i.e., property line).
  2. Make the building front “permeable” (i.e., no blank walls).
  3. Prohibit parking lots in front of the building.

from his book City Comforts

Summer Walk 2008

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Backyard Gates of Memphis

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spreading the Creation: Civic Economy economic system which is beyond capitalism, that is a system which enhances the participation in the creation of wealth, not only its accumulation.

Civic economy can be defined as the economy resulting from generalized repricocity, from people helping people to succeed, with the understanding that the well-being of each member of the community is to everybody's advantage. Whereas unbridled capitalism destroys diversity, competition, and ultimately the market and has to be controlled with anti-trust laws, civic economy encourages diversity and supports small and medium companies and cooperatives with legislative and fiscal tools.

The result is an entrepeneurial economy where repricocity matters.

Ernesto Sirolli,
from the Epilogue of
Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepeneurship and the Rebirth of Local Economies

Civic economy is a way forward for a healthy, dynamic, prosperous Memphis.

Detail, Artist's Yard, Cooper-Young

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Jefferson @ Main

Some thoughts about the new Courtyard Marriott going up at the corner of Jefferson and Main
  • This is what the hotel will look like.

    I think it will give great visual presence to a long empty corner.

  • That neighborhood's after hours density is about to skyrocket. You will also have the developing Court Square Center project and the Renaissance Apartments on 2 of the other 3 corners. That's in addition to the nearby

    Exchange Building,
    Madison Hotel,
    Goodwyn Institute,
    Porter Building,
    Claridge House,
    Springhill Suites,
    Sleep Inn,
    Comfort Inn,
    Marriott Residence Inn,
    67 Madison,
    Shrine Building
    University of Memphis Law School

    providing after hour residents, tourists and students, all within a 2 minute walk of each other.

    This could be the greatest density in the city.

    It's an opportunity to resurrect the center of Main Street, around Court Square, with street-level opportunities that can create an active, healthy, even transforming street life in an area affected by a disproportionate number of homeless and/or panhandlers.

    I think to restore a healthy, safe citizen mix, the Center City Commission must explicitly architect an active Main Street life. It can't expect that it will happen as a matter of course. It should encourage businesses -- bar, bistros, coffee houses, etc -- to open and to focus on the street with placement, use and hours. For instance, with the Courtyard visualization, the Jefferson side doesn't appear to have any entrances or exits, but the Main side does have umbrellas which hints at a commercial presence. But will it be a dull smoking plaza rather than street-level business that attracts nearby residents and tourists?

    Pretty blank walls, deprecated smoking plazas, and business-hour sandwich shops haven't, and won't, create an active street life. They are a real waste of this unprecedented density.

  • Could the Center City Commission convince the 2 grocers at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Main to upgrade their wares and make the combination (and perhaps a 3rd in the empty corner) the promised downtown grocery store rather than a suburbish, pedestrian-unfriendly, downtown-fringe supermarket?

  • While the block is finally looking urban again, Memphis has had to sustain a massive grayfield at this site for nearly a quarter of a century. It's taken that long for the Main, Jefferson, Front, Court block to return to an near urban form.

    Speculative demolition does not magically regenerate the urban landscape -- it leeches value from it.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

The Easy Way

I noticed Saturday that someone had ripped the modern covering off an old shop on Union Avenue, revealing this facade underneath.

Easy Way Exposed

Very beautiful.

But will the owners appreciate this beauty as they renovate it, or will they unnecessarily cover it with some other inferior facade, as their neighbors recently did?

This is what they shops next door used to look like, with a faux facade similar to that removed from the Easy Way #6 building.

This is what they looked like underneath, after the fake was removed.

Even unrenovated and blocked by a tractor-trailer, you can tell they're classic midtown storefronts. Notice the detailing on the top left.

Unfortunately, the owners didn't stop while they were ahead. They covered it, again:

Union Avenue Storefronts Post-Renovation


We've recently seen the same metamorphosis at some shops at Madison and McLean.
  1. Bland 60's era covering removed.
  2. Nice original brickwork exposed.
  3. Bland 00's era covering imposed.
Boring facelifts both, they've turned the banal into the unique into the banal.

Here's hoping that back on Union they'll STOP when they're already so much ahead.

Heed the sign!

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Holiday Card from the Church Health Center

A painting by well-known artist Danny Broadway will be featured on this year’s Church Health Center holiday card, one of the Center’s biggest fundraisers of the year. The card will be the second in a series of five holiday cards to feature local artists.

Church Health Center holiday cards can be sent in honor or memory of loved ones, friends, clients or even co-workers. Those honored will receive a personalized, hand-inscribed holiday card acknowledging the gift. Holiday cards recognizing a memorial gift will be sent to the person specified by the donor. A tax-deductible minimum gift of $10 per honoree is suggested.

Broadway, a graduate of the University of Memphis has had work displayed nationwide in galleries as well as major art shows like the Arts EXPO in New York. He has also been named by PBS Television as the Master Artist for five consecutive years. Many prominent companies, including FedEx, Black Enterprise, Memphis Grizzlies, Memphis Redbirds and Major League Baseball have commissioned Danny Broadway original paintings. In fact, Broadway was commissioned to produce the official logo of Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game.

Order this card in support of the mission of this great Memphis organization. They recommend ordering by December 7 to ensure cards get there by Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Concept or the Particulars

"I'm having a hard time following the whole concept and the particulars of it. We've been talking about this for a month now, and I don't feel like I know more now than I did at the beginning."

City Councilman Jim Strickland
talking about the plan for Fairgrounds redevelopment

The vision gets fuzzier with each published piece of information.

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