I never objected to Kroger per se. (Though I would like to know what became of the staff at the Union store, many of whom had been there since the Sessels days and appear to have been unceremoniously dumped in favor of teenagers, not that we don't have a desperate need for teen jobs around here). Kroger has been a part of the Midtown shopping community for almost a century and have been the best store in Memphis for decades. What distressed me — and I think a lot of people — when they bought out Schnucks was just that the acquisition severely constricted out already limited shopping options. Sure there are still the high end stores and the surprisingly strong farmers markets. But in that sweet spot of large, broadly stocked, value conscious stores Kroger has no competition, and lack of competition is never a good thing. Aldi and Cost Value Warehouse or whatever its horrible name is are limited niche markets. The small World Market chain is great but strictly a phenomenon of eastern Shelby County. Superlo operates one pretty great store out east, but its location nearest me in Frayser is such a depressing pit you'd think it was owned by a different company. And Save-a-lot is so bad I think I would actually protest one coming in near me. My great hope was that Easy Way would actually see the opportunity before them and, putting a local spin on the Wal-Mart Market or Fresh Express concept, actually expand their chain of neighborhood markets, maybe revamp their inventory and stores, and freshen their brand. ("Your neighborhood farmers market," that sort of thing.) But alas, for whatever reason, they have actually retreated somewhat from the marketplace. So for the time being its Kroger, who to their credit are spending a lot of money to give customers a good experience. We could do a lot worse. I just wish we could also do more.
A very different kind of theater on Brooks Rd. these days.
WARNING: THIS IS LONG
I generally agree with Doubting Thomas. Our zoning, code, and building permit policies need to be overhauled to discourage further shoddy, suburban-style development in the outreaches and spur redevelopment of the underpopulated inner city. Greater population density would help alleviate blight and create new business. Areas like Washington Flats (aka Little Vietnam) and the Medical Center are ripe for an influx of people.
The newly vacant outlying areas — as well as some strategically chosen, largely abandoned inner city areas — could be given over to greenspaces, greenlines, and, especially in the more impoverished areas where fresh food access has recently become an issue, urban farms.
At the same, we need some sort of commission to look hard and seriously at ways to lower the tax rate, specifically the property tax rate, for all Memphis. This would inevitably involve spreading the burden and likely curbing significantly the generous corporate incentives we've made a habit of handing out of late. The Smart Memphis blog recently reported that in a 10 year period Memphis handed out over 800 tax freezes (more than half of the state's total) while Nashville handed out a grand total of five. Ask anyone, acting desperate is no way to get someone to like you.
I would also like to see a greater emphasis on neighborhoods. First step would be to definitively define neighborhoods; unless you live in an area with a community association, a lot of Memphians are hard pressed to name their neighborhood. Once identified you can begin to build a real sense of community around neighborhoods. I would love to see community centers become a vital force again, with meeting space, fitness and nutrition centers to address our collective weight problem, health clinics, and some sort of public services office where citizens could get questions answered and do basic tasks (get a business license or renew a drivers license) without having to trek downtown.
Tear down the Sears Tower. I know there is an effort to raise $200 million (!!!! We don't have a better use for that kind of money?) to turn it into some sort of arts colony. But even if you were able to raise that money, you'd still be left with a monolithic monstrosity awkwardly plopped in the middle of residential neighborhood. Return that land to the neighborhood and rebuild the area west of Cleveland. Scale down and relocate the arts colony to the burgeoning Broad arts district where it could be done (very well) for a 10th of the cost.
Make MLGW strive a little harder. I'll admit the local utility has made great strides since Hurricane Elvis, but I also refuse to believe that it is common for a 10th of other major cities to routinely lose power for days following a rain storm. Also instead of making people feel like they're on the dole by making them stand in line for bill payment assistance in the depths of summer and winter, why not move to an averaged out billing system (used, I know, in other cities) where the high cost of peak months is spread out over the year so that people on a fixed income (of which Memphis has more than its share) can better anticipate the costs.
Finally, MATA. Oh, MATA. Instead of chasing light rail money (for a shrinking population that is way too spread out to make rail viable?) why not focus of running the best damn bus system in the country. Specifics could be better gleaned by studying cities like Seattle and (a little surprisingly) South America, specifically Bogota, Columbia, and Curitiba, Brazil. But I would suggest an approach that treats the bus system like a light rail system: Abandon the esoteric little routes that wind through residential streets. Focus on major thoroughfares with high frequency. As suggested above, Memphis has a weight problem; it certainly wouldn't hurt if people had to walk a few block to the nearest major intersection for a bus instead of just going to the corner. Put an emphasis on keeping the busses and stops clean and safe. Stops, at least major ones, should be more like stations, with complete system maps and perhaps a terminal for plotting routes and pre-purchasing passes. At hight traffic stops, MATA could even start a program allowing low income entrepreneurs to operate kiosks selling drinks, gum, magazines/newspapers, etc.
While I agree that the state of Overton Square is probably only of paramount importance to Midtowners, the rest of Strait Shooter's comment is too bizarre to be understood. Who wouldn't want to see empty storefronts taken over with new job-creating, economy-fueling jobs? Who thinks blight and vacancy signs are good for a neighborhood? You seem to be suggesting, through a fog ennui, that Overton Square is somehow passé, that Memphians have moved on and therefore the property should be left to rot. (With that kind of thinking where would downtown, Overton Park, even huge swaths of East Memphis, be today?) That observation is not very, well, observant. Iris, Bari, Bosco's, Studio on the Square, etc. — the businesses of Overton Square are surviving if not thriving, no mean feat in this economy. The only thing that has contributed to the perception of a square in decline has been the short-sighted actions of an out-of-town owner who is looking to make a quick killing rather than be a landlord and good neighbor. Unfortunately, no matter what Loeb and Memphis Heritage have cooked up, their plan will still need to clear that hurdle.
At this point in the thread, I'm not even sure what the argument is, but I think it is way off point (as these things tend to get.) I think it went off the rails when Thought accused Chris of bashing Chrisitians.
The thing is that there is very of little of Chris and his notorious wit in this piece. It is mostly straight reporting. Likewise, I have become obsessed AFR and its twisty cornpone logic, and Chris' account is fairly representative of just far off the reservation these folks have wandered.
I don't think Chris is elucidating the ridiculousness of AFR to mock either Christians or Republicans, but rather, rightly, to take to task those on the fringe who wrap up the more twisted rationales of the later with the righteousness of the former. By scaring people with Biblical boogeymen and throwing rocks at Obama and his policies while hiding behind the throne of God, these people have cheapened both America and religion and dragged the vital national discussion into a morass of superstition and ignorance. These are serious times for serious men, as they say, not for half-baked Elmer Gantries.
I don't think Chris actually referenced where O'Reilly broadcasted those remarks — WPTY, WREC, Fox News, or otherwise. Though I can see where you might infer that he was saying O'Reilly was on PTY, he was, in fact, not.
By Chris Shaw & Chris McCoy
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