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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Blogger Joe Spake - Memphis said...

Great post!

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The potential density is all good and well, but the biggest problem is you assume people will live here. Why? I have no clue why people would move to an overpriced unsupported downtown.

Yes I agree the buildings are finally starting to show some character, but all facets of a downtown need to be employed. I also agree that incentives should be the next thing on the list for small shops who support the living environment.

the zookeeper

5:14 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

zookeeper, thanks for the comment.

Some of the density will be from new hotels and the new Law School, so it doesn't completely require people moving downtown to increase.

7:40 PM  
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