Friday, May 29, 2009

Startups, Bikes, Hikes and Unity

Events this weekend:

The Bicycle Film Festival is a celebration of bicycles through film, art and music. We have a great line up of films and events this year. We're hoping to bring together cyclists from all over the South for this weekend of amazing bike-related events.

There will be free bike valet at all events.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks!

May 29
7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Film Screenings at the Brooks Museum (1934 Poplar Ave)

9 p.m. until late
After Party with Gold Sprints, a DJ and a one hour open bar!
at Nocturnal (1588 Madison Ave)

May 30
12 - 4 p.m.
Block Party at Overton Park with food, vendors, bike games / tricks, games for kids -- fun for everyone!

3 p.m.
Film Screening at the Brooks Museum, Road to Roubaix

9 p.m.
Bikes Rock with River City Tanlines, Magic Kids, The Warble, and Girls of the Gravitron
Murphys (1589 Madison Ave)

Three Days & Great Minds -- All That's Missing is You.

Startup Weekend will be returning to Memphis May 29 - 31, one year after the highly successful inaugural weekend. If you missed the event last year, or are unsure about what it entails -- Startup Weekend is a three-day event that brings great minds together to form viable businesses. Click here for tickets.

Have you already signed up? Make sure you join the Private Facebook group to get a sneak peak at the pitches in advance of the weekend.

Join us to support even more entrepreneurial activity in Memphis. This year, multiple businesses will simultaneously be moving forward in parallel, which promises to make the weekend even more action packed than last year.

Tickets are $40 per person for the entire weekend and includes meals, drinks and supplies. Be sure to get your ticket early because this event sells out and is limited to the first 100 people that sign up. Click here for tickets.

Startup Weekend is a national program that has selected Memphis once again as one of the cities it will visit. For more information, click here. Hope to see you there.

Nature Walk with Citizens to Preserve Overton Park

Sunday May 31, 2009 10:00 am - 11:30 am This event repeats every month on the last Sunday. Overton Park

Meet at the end of Old Forest Lane, next to the Rainbow Lake parking lot, for a free guided 1.5-mile walk through the Old Forest at Overton Park. Kids are welcome!

Questions? Email Naomi ( or call 901-278-2396 if you need more info.

Unity Rally

Support Non Discrimination Ordinance

Sunday, May 31, 2009 1:00pm - 2:00pm First Congregational Church (front steps) 1000 South Cooper St

This is our Harvey Milk moment. We're asking that ALL supporters attend a rally on Sunday to show your solidarity.

Support the right for people to work without fear.
Support tolerance in Shelby County Governemnt.
Support equality for all Mid-South citizens

The time is now. Please attend this Sunday!

Bands Not Bombs Concert

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It Matters

As Memphis and Shelby County prepare to take up the Unified Development Code, we should take to heart and law fearlessvk's wisdom, based on her first trip to Memphis:
...the physical landscape of space matters. It affects first impressions - and sometimes it's exceedingly difficult to put aside those first impressions. When you drive aimlessly around midtown for the first time, you can't tell how cool and creative the people are or how interesting some of the places are. You come to discover that later, but none of it is apparent from the window of your car. Coming from a dense city with a lot of pedestrian activity, midtown feels like a suburb. Its physical landscape doesn't do justice to its countless virtues - it sells itself short. They say you can't polish a turd, but perhaps you can do the opposite: midtown is like a golden nugget coated in shit.
The space created by Memphis' built environment matters.

That's why you need to come down to show your support for the UDC

By the way, I've discovered a summary of the code that might fill the void between the code itself and a brochure.

What's It Going to Be? Overton Square Architecture

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Vote on Unified Development Code This Thursday

Views from the Lincoln-American Tower

In what could be the most important civic breakthrough for Memphis' built environment in 100 years, the Land Use Control Board will vote on the revised and long-awaited Unified Development Code this Thursday, May 28th, at 5 p.m., in the Memphis City Council chambers at 125 N Main – City Hall.

If you, as a citizen, neighborhood, developer and/or leader, want better tools to rebuild a greater Memphis, or just want a better built Memphis, please show up to show your support.

If you're not up to inspecting the toolkit, 424 pages of development code, the Office of Planning and Development has created a short document which lists the organizing principles of the UDC. Given the importance of citizens and neighborhood groups to its real success, how-to's, case studies, mailing lists, websites, etc. would also be very useful auxiliary tools moving forward.

Beale Street

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Inside the Overton Square

Memphis Heritage is hosting a meeting about Overton Square from 4-6 p.m. this Wednesday, May 20th, at their headquarters, 2282 Madison (at Edgewood).

Like the last public Overton Square meeting, this one also and unfortunately takes place during business hours. Memphis Heritage has told me that this was designed several weeks ago as a educational/informational meeting and has morphed into an advocacy meeting because of the recent contract on Overton Square. From here out, advocacy meetings will take place after normal business hours so members and concerned citizens can participate.

Clock Tower in Overton Square

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Wall of Trees

On my way to the Barbecue Fest last Friday I noticed this growing wall of trees on Main between Beale and Peabody Place. Eventually they should be as tall as, if not taller than, the buildings behind them.

The trees are inexpensively creating architectural space where demolition and a surface parking lot removed it 40 years ago. The feeling of enclosure helps bridge the walking gap between the Orpheum and the buildings and businesses north of Peabody Place.

Unfortunately, this is the only side of the block square parking lot that has trees, as you can see looking down the Beale side towards the River.

Maybe planting trees in an urban pattern is not as good as building, but it is something we can do now all over the city to begin filling chronic gaps.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rebuilding Greensburg and Drinking Green Tonight

Architect Josh Somes will present a review of the 5.4.7 Arts Center at the Memphis Regional Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC-MEM) May meeting. The 5.4.7 Arts Center was the first structure to the LEED Platinum rating in the state of Kansas and also marked the first structure to achieve the LEED designation in the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kansas. Greensburg Kansas was destroyed by tornados on May 4, 2007 and was the subject of a Discovery Channel Documentary, detailing the town’s rebirth. LEED, is a certification program of the US Green Building Council and stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The lecture is part of USGBC-MEM regular series to promote environmental friendly buildings and facility operations. The presentation will take place at the Memphis College of Art’s Callicot Auditorium on May 14th at 6pm. It is open to all interested parties, free for chapter members, and $5 for guests. The lecture will be followed by a question and answer period with Mr. Somes.

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Monday, May 11, 2009


Skatelife Memphis Booth

The second round of public meetings for the Mud Island River Park Land Use Study are comingup this week. The actionists from Skatelife Memphis are asking that skatepark supporters, be they skaters or not, turn out. The meeting details:

1.Memphis Botanical Gardens
Tuesday May 12th, from 5:45 - 7:15 pm
Location: Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Road (near Audobon Park)

2. Downtown Meeting

Thursday May 14th from 5:45 - 7:15 pm
Location:MIRP Harbor Landing, 101 Island Drive (gate security will give directions) Basically drive to Mud Island and go through the security gates. It's on Mud Island.

Plus check out the findings from the first round.

To me these reports look like the skatepark supporters are making their voices heard loud and clear. There's opposition from Park Services (fearing competition for their much anticipated neighborhood skatepark) and the Regional Chamber (for reasons unknown) to a Mud Island skatepark but every other stakeholder group appears to support or be neutral on it. And the support for it at the open meetings has dwarfed every other idea.

I don't know what will be presented on Tuesday and Thursday but I think skatepark's too big to completely ignore. But look for the machinations of a powerful and secretive cabal of NIMBY geezers if the study recommends putting the skaters under the I-40 bridge, or some other unvisible location.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Bands and Bikes Not Bombs

The Bands part is outside Lifelink Church (formerly Galloway Church), a favorite Memphis place for me.

Galloway Church Community Garden

Bands Not Bombs Concert

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

It's Both, Alcaeus

Carved into marble and just a few feet from being a literal cornerstone of Memphis City Hall.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Forgotten No. 5

Fred Smith recently laid out an excellent list of core public responsibilities that Memphis should focus on:
  1. Public safety

  2. Education

  3. Efficiency

  4. Economic Development
I got one more:
  1. Physical Form -- the built, cultivated and natural form of Memphis.
Beyond the effect it has on Mr. Smith's 4 areas (for instance, sprawl's effect on safety and efficiency, blight and banality's effect on safety and development), I simply believe our streets should radiate Memphis' humble greatness.

Court Square from the Lincoln-American Tower

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Friday, May 01, 2009

More on Demolition Without Design

The most frustrating thing for urbanists is that there is so little rhyme or reason to how the city disposes of these buildings. With no plan for replacement, the creeping creation of vacant lots in the name of “much needed” parking or blight removal is insidious.
Detroitist Francis Grunow has written a very interesting plea for a comprehensive redevelopment strategy -- what I think you would call urban planning -- in the midst of Detroit's demolition free-for-all. Without at all denying the need for urban triage in a shrinking city like Detroit, he argues for "the repositioning of the city’s core assets, its undervalued anchors, as the urban basis for revival and long-term regeneration".

One of the bases, the anchors, is the incredibly beautiful and incredibly threatened Michigan Central Station,

designed by the same architects who designed Grand Central Terminal. Detroit plans to "use economic stimulus money to demolish Michigan Central and stick the gratuitously negligent billionaire owner, Matty Moroun, with the bill"

Random questions that aren't completely rhetorical:
  1. why is demolition of neglected private property considered an acceptable governmental responsibility but moth-balled maintenance is never, even when the plan is to force a billionaire to pay up?

  2. what's wrong with treating urban anchors as visual and monumental rather than economic anchors, especially if we're talking about low demand real-estate? Monumental anchors give a city body and presence.

    Even as monuments, you can't let the street front die, but can you mothball the tops without having to mothball the bottom?

  3. Is there such a thing as phased renovations of major buildings like you see with the Phase I, Phase II of suburban developments? Could you "subdivide" major buildings?

  4. Why can't a municipality pay for modern infrastructural improvements like electricity and plumbing in a dense urban renovation like they do for new roads, sewers, electricity and water in suburban developments. The former might make greater economic sense.

  5. Will a full-blown urbanist movement emerge, in the mode and possibly from the ranks of the preservationist and environmental movements, with the same willingness to fight for its principles? Or has it already emerged?

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