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Block Party

Cleveland Street gets makeover at MEMFix festival.

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Midtown's Crosstown neighborhood may be the next Cooper-Young, Broad Avenue, or South Main district. At least that's what a handful of urban planners and arts supporters are counting on.

On Saturday, November 10th, the neighborhood's main thoroughfare — Cleveland Street — will get a makeover at MEMFix, an all-day festival with pop-up retail shops, live music, and all manner of art displays, performances, and workshops.

"The idea was inspired by the success of Broad Avenue's 'New Face for an Old Broad' event. After three or four months of planning in 2006, they had a weekend block party on Broad, and they went out with house paint and painted on-street parking, bike lanes, and crosswalks," said Tommy Pacello, project manager with the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team, which is co-sponsoring MEMFix. "Since then, you've seen their occupancy rates going up. New businesses are opening there all the time.

"If that can be done there, we feel like it can be replicated in other neighborhoods with similar conditions," Pacello said.

Pacello said Crosstown already has a "good level of urbanism," thanks in part to the momentum building in the neighborhood as a result of the news that the Church Health Center, West Clinic, and others plan to move their operations into the long-vacant Sears Crosstown building in a few years.

From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, empty storefronts along Cleveland between Overton Park and Galloway will serve as home to temporary retail spaces for clothing stores Sache and Chuck Vintage, a jewelry sale by Brave Design, and spaces for art displays from Memphis College of Art students and other local artists.

Live from Memphis will hold an Ink-Off art contest. The Hooper Troopers will offer hula-hooping classes. And the National Ornamental Metal Museum will hold metalworking demonstrations. A kids' area will feature art projects and a bounce castle.

Live music by Di Anne Price, Pezz, Artistik Approach, Skewby, the Sheiks, Dead Soldiers, Adam WarRock, and others will be featured on two stages, a main stage in the Sears parking lot and a satellite stage along Cleveland by the Memphis Urban League office.

Additionally, the Sears parking lot will feature a mini-skate park, food trucks, and beer stands. At 7:30 p.m., The Princess Bride will be projected onto a movie screen on the side of the Sears parking garage.

Perhaps the biggest visual change to the street will be the addition of temporary bike lanes.

"Cleveland is on the books to be repaved in the next 12 months, so it makes sense to experiment with bike lanes before the city starts engineering and design on the street," said Chooch Pickard, executive director of the Memphis Regional Design Center, a co-sponsor of the festival.

Unlike with Broad Avenue, where latex paint was used to create "temporary" bike lanes that became permanent, the organizers of MEMFix are using removable engineering tape to designate bike lanes in both directions on Cleveland. Peddler Bike Shop will host a pop-up bike rental facility, and bike valet will be provided for parking.

Todd Richardson of Crosstown Arts has been working on bringing back the Crosstown neighborhood and the Sears building for several years. He's hoping this event will be a catalyst for more neighborhood growth.

"MEMFix will reach in one day what it has taken Crosstown Arts two years to reach. We're expecting 8,000 people," Richardson said.

As for the long-term effects of MEMFix, Pacello believes this event will inspire business owners to move into the area. But he said Crosstown residents should be patient.

"If you come back in three weeks, there's not going to be 20 new businesses. It's a longer process," Pacello said. "With Broad, there was a six-month ramp-up period after their event before new businesses started to open. It takes time for those things to gear up."

MEMFix is the first in a series of one-day festivals to be held in up-and-coming neighborhoods across the city.

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