OtherArea: Downtown Memphis
Oh, and I forgot to mention the huge success that our first annual River Arts Fest was a week ago- in downtown. I have been told that this has been the most successful art fest ever, the prior ones being held in Overton Park (Midtown) and the Memphis Botanic Gardens (pretty much in the 'burbs). There was a good representation of out-of-state artists and the work is higher quality than that I have seen in other cities, and pretty much on par with Philadelphia's Art Festival in Rittenhouse Square. Oh, and there was huge trolley ridership that weekend! Go downtown Memphis!
The author of this piece chagrins downtown investment, but I am sure she, as well as others of a similar mindset, have no problems with the investment it takes to build suburbs. I bet they have no trouble with investment in multi-laned highways and expressways to get people from their bedroom communities to their jobs in the city.
She pokes at the trolley system here, but it is understood that is not real public transit, it is more of a boutique thing. She says nothing about the ridership of buses coming in and out of downtown, which I have witnessed as being pretty high.
Memphis has a lot going for it- it has history, it has the urban street grid which is extremely flexible for redevelopment, it has a professional sports team and it has the river. Memphis also has "place" and authenticity that cannot be ignored. Many newer or recently booming cities like Orlando, FL are trying to find this and often fail to do so- looing fake or overdone in the process.
It is going to take time for downtown Memphis to really completely turn the corner, it is almost there already. It will take investment, which is currently going on, revitalization and redevelopment of empty and vacant parcels, also slowly happening, and Memphis will need to get a grip on its crime problem that, no doubt, shackles some of the potential here. Downtown will also come around because at some point, people will get tired of commuting far with the rise in gas prices and traffic, that the energy will have to come back in to the center. As Memphis' metro area sprawls closer to Jackson, TN and Hernando, MS, who would want to make that daily commute every weekday?
By Chris Shaw
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