Monday, December 6, 2010

Being in the Big D

One thing I love about going to Dallas is sitting in traffic.

Especially on a sunny Saturday afternoon, not a "rush hour" in sight for at least another day.

It always makes me realize how easily traffic flows in Memphis (an asset that's easily overlooked b/c it's an absence of a problem). The average Memphis daily commute might be around 20 minutes or so, but we don't -- generally -- have the hours-long traffic snarls of some other cities.

[To be fair, Dallas is figuring out new ways to deal with those snarls -- one of them being the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, which is opening a new 28-mile, 20-station rail line this morning. The $1.8 billion project now means the system is up to 72 miles long.]

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Wish This Was Here.

I love this project.

Artist and urban planner Candy Chang had stickers printed up that say "I wish this was __________." Then she distributed for free in cafes, bookstores, bars, and beauty shops:

"The stickers are custom vinyl and can be easily removed without damaging property. It’s a fun, low-barrier tool for citizens to provide civic input on-site, and the responses reflect the hopes, dreams, and colorful imaginations of different neighborhoods."

Chang says she likes to make cities more comfortable for people, which I think is a pretty great goal. And the results are exactly what you'd expect: hopeful, inspiring, funny.

This kind of reminds me of what happened on Broad Avenue a few weeks ago, but I think the folks on Broad took it a little further and actually created those things, albeit temporarily. Either way, very cool.

To learn more — Chang has apparently had a lot of interest from people in other cities — visit

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dear John

I don't know quite how to say this.

You were my first blog and you taught me a lot: how to make links and moderate comments, how to do a blogroll, how to tag subjects and search my archives.

And it was all great. But I'm sorry; I have to move on.

We had a good run of it, almost a full year. And I'll never forget you and how user-friendly you are!

But I've met someone else. Someone a little closer to home.

I'm so sorry. If things were different ... maybe ... but they're not.

If you need me, you know you can always find me here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Door Dash Deadline — Today!

Memphis Heritage executive director June West has been floored by the response to the group's first Adapt A Door design challenge.

She expected they would have maybe 15 or 20 architects and interior designers sign up, but more than 70 groups or families have already registered. The participants will recreate the old doors into whatever they want, and the results will be auctioned off in August.

"We have about 150 doors. We salvage a lot of good, solid wood doors," West says. "We thought these would last for three years."

What she calls the more spectacular doors, salvaged out of older buildings, generally sell at Memphis Heritage's semi-annual auction.

"I think some people are doing it so their kids can paint on a door. They might be starting a bad trend around their house," she says.

The Door Dash is Saturday, April 25th, at the old marine hospital near the National Ornamental Museum. Door-dashers will first have a 30-minute window to look at all the doors and, because of the large number of participants, be allowed into the building in groups to choose their door.

Deadline to sign up for the door design challenge is today at 4 p.m. and can be done by calling Memphis Heritage at 901.272.2727. The $25 registration fee also includes two tickets to the silent auction in August.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

United We Planned

My friends over at the Coalition for Livable Communities wanted me to mention their upcoming Pizza with the Planners event on April 23rd.

The latest in a series of conversations with city and county planners, this Pizza with the Planners will talk about the new Unified Development Code, currently under consideration.

I think it's pretty important. Here's an excerpt from one of my recent columns on the subject:

"When Harbor Town — one of Memphis' most celebrated neighborhoods — was being constructed, it was technically illegal. Still is, actually.

Under current zoning regulations, the neighborhood's streets are too narrow; the house lots are too small; and the grocery store and other non-residential uses are prohibited. Developer Henry Turley (who is part-owner of the Flyer's parent company) had to get a special permit to build the development.

'It could not have been done under the current zoning ordinance,' says Don Jones, project manager for the new Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code. 'It would have been a patchwork quilt of zoning districts: one for this block, another for that one.'"

But the Unified Development Code, which should go before members of the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission very soon, makes a variety of housing types and neighborhoods permissible.

To read the entire column, click here. Or to go straight to the source, click here.

The event will be held at the Central Library. It's free but reservations are required and can be made by e-mailing Sarah Newstok at

In the Junkyard

Last week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with artist Lisa Williamson at the old Marine Hospital's maintenance building.

The site is the future home of Junkyard Memphis, a museum inspired by St. Louis' City Museum.

The article is out on stands today, or if you want to see the site, located near the National Ornamental Metal Museum, as well as some pictures of Williamson's inspiration, you can watch the accompanying video.

And, yes, if you were at the Flyer's 2008 Best Of party, you might recognize the building.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Test Drive a Scion, Drink Coffee, Support UrbanArt

Morning, sleepy heads. I would have mentioned this earlier, but I was unfortunately delayed by a blockwide power outage here at beautiful sunny 460 Tennessee Street. Phones were down, people were cussing, and those brave souls venturing into out already cavernous restrooms had to use their cell phones to illuminate the way.

At any rate, the point is that today and tomorrow, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (and yes, I know it is already after 11 today. Like I said: Power outage.) you can stop by Otherlands on Cooper and test drive a Toyota Scion.

For doing so, you will receive a free $15 gift card, "with the option of donating a portion towards producing UrbanArt's series of community murals this summer."

I think I may have mentioned recently about UrbanArt director John Weeden's war on ugly landscapes and his feelings about the transformative power of murals.

I completely agree. There's one mural I always notice when I'm in Fort Worth. It's really simple — just a zipper across the building, unzipping to reveal blue sky and a feather — but it's in the middle of ugly buildings and surface parking lots, and it completely transforms the nature of the block.

Apparently the building used to house a Dickies factory. Whenever I see it, it just makes me laugh and I think that goes a long way in diminishing any ugliness around it.