Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the Grand Scheme of Things

Posted on Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Each week, the Flyer's dogged editorial staff whiles away hours at meetings and press conferences in an effort to glean meaningful new angles on the hot topics of the day.

Some of those hot topics, like Tennessee Waltz, will have effects for years to come. Other issues build up a media storm, only to fade away with the rise of the next big controversy. And some stories bow out of the limelight when resolutions are reached.

In the past 1,000 issues, Flyer staffers have written plenty of words about issues that, quite frankly, just don't matter in the grand scheme of things.

"The Girls Next Door" by Kate Leneham (July 1989)

Although the city government and the private sector had poured money into rejuvenating South Main in the mid-'80s, Leneham's story highlights the street's age-old prostitution problem, which just wouldn't go away.

Leneham writes: "Directly across the street from one of the area's oldest businesses, the Arcade Restaurant, another of the area's oldest businesses seems to still flourish: A woman in tight high-cut shorts, a long black wig, halter top, and high heels waves at cars as they pass, offering the drivers a good time for a price."

The only prostitutes on South Main these days are likely to be depicted on canvas at a Trolley Night art show.

"Central Station Approaches the End of the Line" by Sam Evan Young (January 1990)

South Main's Central Station was facing the possibility of abandonment as Amtrak made plans to move its station to Mud Island.

Young writes: "The aging building has seen brighter days. Now, the only light inside the terminal comes from a few rays of sun that manage to peek through the dirty, dingy windows, revealing walls with cracked and chipping paint."

Thankfully, Amtrak stayed put, and the Memphis Area Transit Authority revamped the historic train station. Today, it serves as a lush banquet hall for private parties and is home to loft apartments, the Amtrak station, the Memphis Police South Main Precinct, and the downtown Farmers Market.

"Are Four New Teams in the Cards for the NFL?" by John Branston (September 1993)

Writes Branston: "The latest NFL rumor making the rounds is that the league's owners could decide to expand by four teams instead of two. ... Under this scenario, Memphis and Baltimore would be awarded franchises in October and start play in 1995."

Fast-forward 15 years: The city recently fought over whether or not to build a new stadium, not for its NFL team but for the University of Memphis football team. The city did become home to an NBA team, but that rumored NFL team was awarded to Nashville in 1998.

"Ellis, Tigrett Propose Joint Music Museum" by Mark Jordan (November 1995)

Bert Ellis, head of WMC's parent company Ellis Communications, and fashion designer/Blues Ball maven Pat Kerr Tigrett were in talks with the Smithsonian Institution to jointly develop a music museum inside The Pyramid.

Writes Jordan: "The Ellis/Tigrett proposal calls for installing a music museum similar to the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, which recently opened in Cleveland."

While Memphis eventually did gain a Smithsonian music museum, the Rock 'n' Soul Museum is housed in a more viable structure: FedExForum. Meanwhile, The Pyramid sits dark and empty.

"Residents Losing Fight Against Bluffwalk" by Jacqueline Marino (August 1998)

In 1998, a group of downtowners adamantly opposed the construction of a sidewalk along the South End river bluffs stretching from Beale Street to Martyr's Park.

Writes Marino: "Bluff residents have objected to the walk being notched underneath their property because they believe it will destabilize the bluff and possibly cause damage to their homes."

Despite their protests, the Bluffwalk was built anyway. These days, the walk is as much a part of downtown as the trolleys, and there are few if any complaints.

"Free Art Tomorrow" by Bianca Phillips (April 2003)

Though downtown is home to the city's thriving art scene, artists likely cannot afford to live in the area's upscale condos. But in 2003, a group of local art advocates had a plan to turn the century-old Tennessee Brewery into a residence for artists.

Writes Phillips: "[ArtBrew] wants to turn it into an affordable living/work space for artists, complete with performance and exhibition space, 'arts-friendly' commercial and retail space, and arts education and outreach programs for the community."

But like the beer that was once produced in the historic building, that idea eventually went flat. The ArtBrew organization no longer exists, the brewery is still empty, and downtown housing remains too pricey for many artists.

"Monumental Battle" by Pamela Denney (August 2005)

A few years back, the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a speech in Memphis supporting a Center City Commission proposal to rename some public parks. In regard to the names of Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Confederate Park, Sharpton proclaimed: "We need to show the rest of the world that the day for honoring people like this is over."

Denney writes: "Protests by some Memphians started almost immediately. A group called Save Our Parks staged a rally near the Forrest monument at evening rush hour. While some protesters waved signs at passing traffic, others used their own lawn equipment to cut the park's overgrown grass."

Though the name-change campaign fizzled out, the protesters triumphed by default. All three parks retain their original names.

by Bianca Phillips

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