Last November, the Broad Avenue Arts District met with its plastic surgeon for a consultation. But now the burgeoning arts district is actually going under the knife.
The "New Face for Old Broad" event last fall used temporary "pop-up shops" and do-it-yourself bike lanes to show patrons what the strip stretching from Collins to Hollywood could become. The street's remodel kicked off last week with several major announcements on Broad Avenue improvements.
Design for the Overton-Broad greenline connector, a new mural by French artist Guillaume Alby, an overlay plan for future Broad business development, and a grant funding artistic bike racks and trash cans were among the planned improvements announced last week during a cocktail reception at the T Clifton Gallery on Broad.
The DIY bike lanes that were added during the November event have remained in place even though they're not sanctioned by the city. But last week, Sarah Newstok, program manager for Livable Memphis, announced that Memphis-based Looney Ricks Kiss Architects and national greenway design firm Alta/Greenways have begun designing a bike and pedestrian trail that would connect Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline via Broad and Tillman.
"Our goal right now is to make the Overton Park to Shelby Farms Greenline connection happen," Newstok told the crowd gathered at T Clifton.
Kyle Wagenschutz, bike and pedestrian coordinator for the city of Memphis, said the city is currently applying for multiple funding sources, and contingent on that funding, work could begin in early 2012.
As the crowd gathered at T Clifton mingled before the announcement, Alby wrapped up painting his mural across the street. The massive painting stretches nearly a block and features geometric figures inspired by a set of sculptures at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Alby, whose work appears in New York City, Atlanta, Miami, and parts of Eastern Europe and North Africa, was flown into Memphis by Bob Loeb of Loeb Properties.
Loeb, who is hoping to transform the intersection at Sam Cooper and East Parkway into Broad's neighborhood gateway, saw Alby's work in Miami and asked the artist to create a piece for Memphis.
Soon, Alby's painting won't be the only new art to grace the street. The Historic Broad Business Association received an $8,400 grant from the Greater Mid-South Junior Chamber of Commerce to allow Gadsby Creson and Jerry Couillard to design sculptures that double as bike racks and trash cans.
"The addition of bike racks further shows our commitment to leveraging the burgeoning biking community as a key strategy in our revitalization and further business growth," said Pat Brown, vice president of the Historic Broad Business Association. "Plus, all of these initiatives show the power of the community — both residents and business — working together to create revitalization."
With all the recent activity on Broad, new business is expected to grow, but Chooch Pickard, executive director of the Memphis Regional Design Center, wants to make sure new businesses are compatible with the district. He is currently working with Memphis city councilman Reid Hedgepeth on an overlay plan to guide future development along Broad Avenue.
"Unlike the rest of Midtown, which may have some payday loan places and auto repair shops, we want to make sure Broad Avenue remains an arts district," Pickard said.
The City Council currently has a moratorium on overlay plans, but Pickard said they're working on drafting the overlay now so it will be ready when the council is able to address the issue.