Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Urban Redo

Let's take a mulligan on the last 50 years of Memphis city planning.

That's what we had to do with this massive Jackson Avenue urban renewal tract from 1961, immediately north of St. Jude (from the Commercial Appeal's Memphis Memories).

Memphis renewed the area cleared as suburbish strip malls. 40 years later, it had to renew the renewal.

Absence of decay is not presence of vitality. Demolition is not design.

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Blogger Don said...

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4:04 PM  
Blogger Don said...

A similar situation is land-clearing. How many times is a lot cleared of a healthy grove of trees
and then sits for years before something is built (and sometimes nothing ever is). It gives the impression that tree-clearing (a kind of demolition) is a benefit to a future developer instead of letting the future buyer/developer DESIGN (make decisions concerning)the role and placement of trees in the future project! And since the typical protocol is to burn the trees on site rather than squeeze a lttle more revenue from the parcel by selling them before the new owner takes over, where is the
logic, ie. sustainability, in this practice?

I recognize that some folks accept that this is just how things have been done in the past to attract a buyer, but I also know that both industrial/commercial and residential developers today recognize the increasing value of preserving trees. Selective demolition needs to be practiced following the ethics of selective (ie. eco-sensitive) "landscaping"!

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absence of decay is not the presence of vitality, but the presence of decay is the presence of lack of vitality. The Hickman builidng illustrates a lack of vitality (particularly now that it is crumbing to the point that the sidewalk is closed around it). The Sterrick too. There is nothing vital anymore about these structures, as atttractive as they once were and to some degree still are. Avoid demolition when possible, sure, but at some point empty albeit attractive buildings must either be reused or destroyed to make way for something else.

11:47 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

thanks anonymous.

So if decay isn't vitality, and demolition isn't vitality, then it's a wash vitality-wise, and the tie breaker goes to beautiful buildings.

We've deluded ourselves for (at least) 50 years that demolition does anything by itself. Something has to replace it if we're to have more than zero.

So I ask, what is something else? What is something that replaces it?

Memphis' yearning for demolition without securing a replacement is urban suicide.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A building that is so run down that it is falling apart and endangering passers by is not beautiful. Neither is the Sterrick, with its chipped and peeling paint and broken windows. And I don't think anyone has believed that demolition by itself "solves anything." I don't know of a lot of empty spaces in town that used to have buildings on them that we demolished, save the spot across from Minglewood. that is somewhat of a straw man you have set up there. What would I like to see instead of these buildings? Save a parking lot, anything. A park would be nice. Think if the Sterrick were gone and in its place was a small little pocket park with some public art in it. It is easy to argue that we should never tear down old builings unless we have something of sufficient grandeur to replace it, but that isn't realistic, and all it gets you is a city full of rotting, empty spaces that make a city look dead. Give me grass and a tree over abandoned arched doorways anyday.

3:33 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

thanks again, anonymous. Anything falling off any building onto a sidewalk is a problem and can be dealt with mechanisms far short of demolition. (I think that's what Environmental Court is for). I did want to point out the worst recent example of that came from a relatively modern, completely occupied building -- Denny's/Days Inn across from Autozone Park.

While I just have to disagree with you about the Sterick's beauty, you have an interesting idea about the pocket parks. I just feel strongly that we should start with the many holes we already have before adding more to fill.

5:13 PM  

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