When Kingsley Hooker moved onto Goodland Circle 30 years ago, the homes on nearby Goodwyn had beautiful, open lawns. Hooker, an entrepreneur with a genteel Southern drawl, says that in recent months, he has seen walls and fences go up around many of the homes on the East Memphis street.
"When I first moved here, none of them had fences, other than maybe a token brick wall that you could step right over. There weren't any of these great, imposing iron fences. It looks like something medieval," he says.
But when Goodwyn residents proposed another wall — at Goodwyn and Southern to shut off through-traffic — nearby neighbors really took notice.
"Southern is a major artery," Hooker says. "We shouldn't be deprived of our most direct route to go someplace."
In August, the Midland Goodwyn Neighborhood Association filed an application to close Goodwyn, citing safety concerns due to high-speed traffic. Goodwyn, just south of Chickasaw Gardens, is one of several thoroughfares between Central and Southern.
"About 50 percent of the neighbors living on the street have small children," says Will Deupree, the association president. "There are 12 streets between Highland and Parkway that run between Central and Southern, and Goodwyn is the only one without sidewalks."
The application was signed by prominent Memphians Kemmons Wilson Jr., county commissioner George Flinn, and Brad Martin, former chairman of the board for Saks Inc.Though it cited traffic concerns, the proposed closure was seen by some nearby residents as a response to a rape earlier this year on the street and was characterized as elitists trying to wall themselves away from the community at the expense of everyone else.
Closing off the street would also set a dangerous precedent. "What if the shoe were on the other foot?" asks Haynes resident Jean Ables.
Ables, a caretaker and gardener, has lived on Haynes her entire life. Her 90-year-old mother, who lives across the street, has lived in the neighborhood since she was 16. Ables' daughter lives on Haynes, as well.
Were Goodwyn to be closed at Southern, traffic would most likely be diverted to Greer on one side of Memphis Country Club or Haynes on the other. Both streets are more narrow than Goodwyn and often have cars parked on them.
"If we closed our street and dumped our traffic onto their street, how would they feel?" Ables asks. "If they close Goodwyn, it's going to be horrific on Haynes."
The staff report from the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development, generally known as OPD, recommended rejecting the application for many of the same reasons. City traffic engineering figures from 1999 put 2,263 vehicles traveling down Goodwyn each day. The average daily traffic count for Greer — though done in 2002 — was 3,283 vehicles daily.
The closure would negatively impact the response time of the fire station near Southern and Highland, as fire trucks currently use Goodwyn to get to dwellings north of Central. The report also noted that the closure would create a dead-end street longer than those permitted by local subdivision regulations.
Nearby residents were prepared to oppose the plan at a Land Use Control Board meeting November 8th, but it appears the issue has been averted — at least for now.
The Midland Goodwyn association is planning to defer its application until December's Land Use Control Board meeting and is exploring speed humps, curbs, and sidewalks instead.
"If we can get sidewalks and everything, we don't want a gate," says Deupree. "The concern is, is the city ready to put infrastructure into our street?"
If not, the association will likely go forward with the street closure application. But the infrastructure overhaul seems to have city support. In its report, OPD suggests that the neighborhood association pursue "full improvement" with curbs, gutters, and sidewalks.
"Any closure of Goodwyn Street would have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods by diverting traffic to other neighborhood streets," reads OPD's report. "An indirect, but just as significant impact resulting from the closing would likely be numerous requests from neighborhoods citywide to close their streets, jeopardizing the public street network in Memphis by limiting the ability of citizens to move about the city."
But maybe Hooker puts it best.
"Sure, some people drive a little too fast. Some people drive a little too fast everywhere. Are we going to lock up all the streets where people drive a little too fast?" he asks. "If we did that, we wouldn't be able to get anywhere in this town."