This April 12th through 29th, every-thing's hotter down south.
That's when the Downtown Home Show at South End takes place, and many visitors will get their first peek at what all the area hubbub the last several years has been about.
The South End is a 70-plus-acre area of downtown demarcated by developers at Riverside Drive to the west, Huling Avenue to the north, Front Street to the east, and Georgia Avenue to the south. Within those geographical boundaries has been a burst of construction that has seen ideas long on the drawing board turned into reality.
But it's not an every-man-for-himself development where decisions are made independent of what's happening in the building next door. The South End is "place-making" in action: turning bricks and mortar into places to live.
"We had a unique opportunity here of doing this assemblage of properties, to have a plan that at the end of the day becomes seamless and fits together," says developer Terry Lynch of Southland Capital, one of the flag bearers on the South End project.
Where there's something with a lofty goal, you can bet there's an "ism" involved. The one on the mind of South Enders is "new urbanism." That's the theory of city planning that stresses having an inclusive community and a connectivity of neighborhood while being mixed-use (residential alongside retail alongside commercial), mixed-product (not homogenous in home size, price, or architecture), high-density, walkable, and sustainable.
Armed with these principles (and not a few dollars), developers joined forces to carve out a swath of land that would be created in the image of new urbanism. By the looks of things, they are well on their way to success.
Among the highlights of the South End are: formerly pedestrian-unfriendly land along streets transformed into walkable places with 10-foot-wide sidewalks, "bump-outs," raised crosswalks, and streets lined with trees; numerous sites for public art; and planned space for restaurants, clubs, banks, a grocery store, health facilities, and retail.
There will be two anchor parks (Martyr's Park/Asburn Park running next to the Mississippi River and Central Park at Central Station) and numerous pocket parks (open spaces tucked along streets, at intersections, and along natural boundaries).
This is an ambitious project that has been in development for over five years. The population of the South End area was 1,000 in 2001. Projections put that at 5,000-plus by 2011. In that year, there will be 2,500 housing units in the neighborhood.
The Downtown Home Show at South End is free for all visitors and runs April 12th to 29th, Thursdays through Sundays only, from noon to 6 p.m. ■ -- GA