Friday, November 19, 2010

Broad Change

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 10:03 AM

Random mohawked cat. B/c thats the kind of thing that makes my intern happy.
  • Random mohawked cat. B/c that's the kind of thing that makes my intern happy.
Today marks the beginning of the New Face for an Old Broad event on — where else? — historic Broad Avenue.

The street will be striped with protected bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks, the vacant storefronts filled with businesses and eateries, and an empty parking lot turned into a skatepark.

“We’re trying to give the street a facelift,” says Pat Brown, co-owner of Broad’s T. Clifton Art Gallery.

I'm looking forward to my friend Melissa Anderson Sweazy's Happiness store and pop-up shops by Blues City Thrift and Strange Fruit Vintage, but with all the people and organizations involved, I think there's going to be lots of great things to see and do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fresh at Walgreens

Posted By on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Is Walgreens the answer to urban food deserts? (Regular Flyer readers might remember a cover story on local food deserts a bit ago.)

Yesterday's NYT magazine ran an interesting piece about an experiment in Chicago to eradicate food deserts. With drug stores ubiquitous even in neighborhoods where supermarkets are rare, Walgreens seemed an easy answer:

“That’s the exciting thing about Walgreens, they’re in so many places,” [study author Mari] Gallagher says. (It was during her research on Detroit that she was struck by the fact that pharmacies were practically the only mainstream chain presence, aside from fast food, in many neighborhoods.) Thus the pharmacy chain did not have to open new stores in food deserts, because it was already operating in plenty of them, and could use Gallagher’s data to pick locations for its experiment. Still, refitting the stores to offer 750 or so new products, including whole new categories, without expanding their actual size was a big undertaking. (About 20 to 25 percent of the square footage in each participating store is now given over to food.)

She doesn't think they're the only solution to the problem, but it seems a good start. Walgreens plans to test the concept in smaller stores in other cities. Not only is it a benefit to the neighborhood, but just by the area being a food desert, Walgreens knows the market isn't exactly saturated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Design Rock-n-Romp's New Tee, Win $200

Posted By on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 10:10 AM

In its early days, the local Rock-n-Romp gave musicians a t-shirt for performing at one of their kid-friendly shows.

Nowadays they pay the bands, but the shirts are still pretty hot commodities.

One featured a Big Wheel. Another a sit-and-spin. This year's was a rockin' robot.


What next year's will be — that might be up to you.

Rock-n-Romp is holding a contest to design next year's t-shirt, with the winner getting $200, a season pass to Rock-n-Romp, and two free t-shirts.

They are looking for a design that's "fun and bold." Children, parents, and artists are encouraged to enter. Just send a jpeg with the artist's name, age, etc. to by December 15th.

For more info, click here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

ArtSpace Happy Hour

Posted By on Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 2:30 PM

I know we don't talk about art a lot on this blog — and this may be more suited for Exhibit M — but ART can be an important component of community and economic development.


Oh, jeez, sorry, I've already lost you. I can tell.

Forget that. I won't mention how valuable a vibrant arts community is, or how public art is an amenity that contributes to residents' overall quality of life.

Instead I will mention the free drinks.

Tomorrow evening, ArtSpace will host an Artists Only Happy Hour at Playhouse on the Square from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

(I've seen artist defined as musician, performance artist, dancer, designer, painter, sculptor, actor, and most importantly, writer, so I'm in.)

It's all part of ArtSpace's launch of an online survey to determine the size and the needs of Memphis' creative community. The survey will be used to guide the development of affordable live/work space for artists in the city.

For more, click here.

Vancouver Deputy Manager Focuses on Environment/Economy Overlap

Posted By on Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 12:26 PM

“Here’s what I want you to think about: How can all of our efforts solve three or four problems at once?”

So said Vancouver deputy city manager Sadhu Aufochs Johnston at Livable Memphis’ 4th Annual Summit for Neighborhood Leaders Saturday morning at Bridges.

“Let’s rethink how we’re doing what we’re doing in cities,” he said. “We don’t have the money to do one-off solutions anymore.”

Johnston focused on Chicago and Vancouver, two cities that have a goal of being the greenest city in the world, and ideas whose solutions overlap between the environment and the economy.

In Chicago, a 40-acre brownfield site that had been vacant for 30 years was rented to the utility company for a solar power system that can generate enough power for 10,000 homes.

"If we cleaned it up, it would be worth $2 million, but it was going to cost $30 million to clean it up," Johnston said. "After installing the solar system, the phones starting ringing off the hook. People and companies wanted to be near this thing."

Continue reading »

Blight Bomb

Posted By on Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 9:00 AM

On Saturday, Memphis was bombed.

Around noon, about 50 people gathered in the Washington Bottoms area to help artist Tommy Wilson do some guerrilla gardening.

Wilson, who we interviewed as part of last week's cover story on blight, filled balloons with a mixture of paint, wildflower seeds, and compost, and, with the assembled crowd’s help, both threw and launched the bombs into a vacant lot near Washington and Watkins.


After letting the crowd throw the balloons, Wilson set up the rocket launcher.


With the cold temperatures the night before, the cannon had cracked, and Wilson fixed it with duct tape. But he warned that, even with the repair, the bombs probably wouldn’t go as far as expected.

Wilson also warned the crowd that the rocket launcher might sound like an elephant screaming.


When it launched for the first time, it didn’t sound so much like an elephant screaming, but more like an elephant trumpeting in surprise, as if it had its toe stepped on … which prompted a surprised laugh from the crowd.

And did I mention there were snacks?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Family Time

Posted By on Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Livable Memphis takes a cradle to grave view at its 4th Annual Summit for Neighborhood Leaders tomorrow morning at Bridges.

"Livability: It's a Family Thing - Building Cities for Children, the Elderly and Everyone in Between" will feature keynote speaker Sadhu Johnston, the deputy city manager of Vancouver. There will also be break-out sessions on green parenting, walkability and increased property values, preservation beyond old buildings, blight, and navigating bikes on the road.

And to make things really family oriented, kids

It's free but registration is required.

For more info, click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Race For Grace with Lightning Bolts, Hooper Troopers

Posted By on Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM

The Church Health Center's Race for Grace 5K is this Saturday at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church, but not all the participants will be running.

Well, they won't *only* be running.

The Hooper Troopers will be hooping while they do the race. Though I can't say exactly how they'll do this, having seen them hoop all sorts of ways for our summer fashion issue, I have no doubt it will be amazing. This video gives a hint:

CHC staff encourage you to form a team of people with your colleagues or church members, or you can join Genevieve and the Lightning Bolts just by listing the team name when you sign up.

To register or get more information, go here.

And here's an inspirational video from another participant:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blight Fall

Posted By on Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 8:30 AM

In this week's print edition, out this morning (hint, hint), Bianca Phillips, Hannah Sayle, and I take on the collateral damage of the foreclosure crisis — Memphis neighborhoods — and what's being done to combat blight and deterioration.

Of course, not all of Memphis' blighted properties are foreclosures. Many are investment properties long ignored by their owners and in need of some serious upkeep.

What I find the most alarming is the scale of Memphis' blight. In discussing this story with friends and colleagues, most people I talked to said something like, I have a house like that on my block. Or around the corner. Or in my neighborhood.

The story focuses on several people's attempts to fight blight: Attorney Steve Barlow's efforts to sue owners of dilapidated property under the Tennessee Neighborhood Preservation Act; Brad Watkins' "Blightwatch" videos on YouTube and his confrontation of Wells Fargo's over back taxes they owe to the city and the county; and Tommy Wilson and his bomb the blight art project.

One of the things people have been very interested in — especially given how many of them have said they have blighted property near them — are the lawsuits.

I should note that you can't just sue your next door neighbor for having a junky house. But if the property is vacant or renter-occupied and doesn't meet code, then you could sue for the loss in value to your property or to force the property owners to fix whatever problem exists.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Neighborhood Preservation

Posted By on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Regular readers of this blog or my column know we're interested in blight over here.

Seems Mayor A C Wharton is interested, too.

Wharton filed 135 lawsuits against the owners of blighted property this morning as part of the Neighborhood Preservation Act.

The properties are spread across the city, but many are clustered together. Five are located on Forrest Avenue, for instance, while another five are on North Hollywood and another five are on Grenadier Cove in Frayser. (Another five are on nearby Elbert in Frayser.)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Going Far

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 10:52 AM

As part of its new "Days of Giving" program, Wells Fargo distributed $1,000 to eight local non-profits, including the Memphis Union Mission and the Vance Avenue Youth Development Center, at the Memphis Botanic Gardens this morning.

Wells Fargo brought its iconic stagecoach to Memphis for the first time.
  • Wells Fargo brought its iconic stagecoach to Memphis for the first time.

But demonstrators with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center were on hand to ask the lending giant to pay the more than $60,000 it owes Memphis and Shelby County.

By looking at foreclosures, deed transfers, as well as board-ups, demolition, and grass cutting fees, the group found 30 homes and 15 properties that Wells Fargo owes money on.

The city of Memphis also has a lawsuit pending against Wells Fargo that alleges the company engaged in predatory lending practices.

"They owe $60,000 in back taxes, fines, and fees for grass cutting," said Brad Watkins with the Peace & Justice Center. "That's just the data we had. That's not the whole of it. We don't have any data from 2010."

City taxes are due at the end of August. Since county taxes are due this month, the group chose not to include 2010 delinquencies.

"They just kind of left these open sores in our neighborhoods," Watkins said. "Now they want to get around it with throwing a little money around."


"We're happy to address their concerns at the appropriate time," said Wachovia Communications Consultant Jamie Dexter. "We're going to dig into this and listen to what they have to say, but today is about celebrating these groups. That's what we're focusing on."

Continue reading »

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ignite the Night

Posted By on Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 10:54 AM

I’ve never heard so many people talking so quickly.

With 20 slides and five minutes to tell their stories, the 15 presenters at Tuesday’s Ignite Memphis event were urged to enlighten or entertain us, but to “make it quick.”

Presentations ranged from blogger Kerry Crawford-Trisler telling the audience how to make an “I like you, but …” mixtape to Computable Genomix CEO Brad Silver talking about the future of personalized medicine.

“This was an absolutely perfect opportunity to highlight what a truly remarkable, innovative city we have,” said Elizabeth Lemmonds of MemphisConnect, which, along with LaunchMemphis, organized the event. “We wanted a broad spectrum of topics, but also something that might not be told elsewhere.”

At least one presenter, web designer Zach Whitten, wanted to talk about technology singularity, or “the nerd rapture,” for fun.

“It’s always fun to get up in front of a group of people and rant,” he said.

Even so, Whitten did several run-throughs of his presentation the night before.

“I love the format. People think it’s so simple: I’ll just get up there with 20 slides and just riff on it,” he said. “You have a slide advancing every 15 seconds. It takes a lot of practice and concentration.”

About 200 people attended Ignite Memphis, and organizers expect to host a second event in the spring.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sears Catalogued

Posted By on Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Yesterday, the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute hosted a rare look inside the Sears Crosstown building. I'll be writing more about it for this week's Flyer, but I thought I'd give you a sneak peek of some of my pictures.

On the roof
  • On the roof

Signange from the first-floor retail space
  • Signange from the first-floor retail space

The lunch line
  • The lunch line

Sears workers got 30 minutes for lunch. Period. Also, the cafeteria was known for its bread pudding.

A mural in the cafeteria
  • A mural in the cafeteria

More pictures after the jump.

Continue reading »

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Drug Store Protest

Posted By on Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM

The new Midtown Action Coalition, formed in response to the controversy over the proposed CVS at the corner of Cooper and Union, plans to hold a rally this Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

The rally, which will protest the demolition of the Union Avenue United Methodist Church, will be held at the corner of Cooper and Union, and organizers will be asking people to sign a petition to boycott CVS.

They say the petition has 1,200 signatures already.

For previous stories about the proposed demolition of the church and the new CVS, click here, here, here, here, and here. (I tried to put them in chronological order for you.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

U of M's Planning Program Wins Award

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Congrats are in order to one of my favorite departments over at the U of M.

The school's Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning was recently awarded a 2010 Outstanding Planning Award by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Planning Association (TAPA) for the Vance Avenue Collaborative Community Visioning Initiative.

The project, which was conducted under the guidance of program director Ken Reardon, used a broad public participation process for collecting and analyzing data, as well as developing a vision for the historically significant African-American neighborhood.

Flyer reporter Halley Johnson recently wrote about the Vance Avenue Collaborative project, which was selected by TAPA from several entries in the student project category:

Residents of the neighborhood, bounded by Crump Boulevard, Third Street, Beale Street, and East Street, decided their initial plans would be to create a homeless service center, start a minority youth entrepreneurship initiative, and focus on the area’s musical history.

You can find the rest of her story here.

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