Monday, April 13, 2009

Urban Alleys

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 11:33 AM

I think we've talked about Chicago's green alleys before — especially when the stormwater flooding/Overton Park detention basin plan came to light — but USAToday has an interesting story about how cities across the country are beginning to see alleys in a new way: "Rather than dismissing them as dark, dank and often dangerous spots used mainly for trash pickup and garage access, they're treating them as valuable real estate that can help the environment and improve city life.

Cities are getting rid of unsightly trash bins and creating things such as gardens and sidewalk cafes to attract people to these long-ignored spaces. In many cities, alleys are being resurfaced with porous materials that can absorb rainwater and reduce runoff."

In Los Angeles and Chicago, they're using alleys to reduce runoff; in Seattle, they banned dumpsters, recyling bins, and compost containers in the city center.

(Speaking of that, Memphis' Center City Commission took a similar step last fall as part of a pilot program and is actually modeled after Seattle's program. Read about that here.)

With Midtown's drainage issues, and its abundance of alleys, it might be worth looking at what Chicago's doing. I don't know what percentage of the alleys are paved and what percentage aren't, but with the storm water problems some neighborhoods experience, it would be better than nothing.

Mischa Barton

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:49 AM

We hear that Mischa Barton (Marissa Cooper from The O.C.) was in town Saturday night and eating at the Rendezvous with a male companion. Apparently, she looked thin (not a big surprise for O.C. fans or Perez Hilton readers) and was wearing a short purple and pink dress and Chuck Taylors.

Anyone know why she was in town? Hit us up at

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Balanced Budget

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Memphis mayor Willie Herenton told the City Council's executive committee this afternoon that the budget he plans to present April 21st will include no property tax increase, no layoffs, and a three percent raise for city employees.

"If you have any anxieties about our budget next year, I hope I can relax you," Herenton told council members.

Herenton recently attended the national conference of mayors and said he listened to horrible budget woes other cities were facing.

"I ask you not to look at Memphis in isolation, look at Memphis in the global economy," he said. "I felt good being the mayor of Memphis as compared to Atlanta or Philadelphia."

In the last two weeks, Herenton has been meeting with the city's bargaining unions; he has already assured those groups that there will be no city employee layoffs.

"We're not closing fire stations; we're filling police classes," he said. "This is a strong city, even in a declining fiscal condition."

Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware called the news "a sigh of relief."

Reuse Round-Up

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 1:47 PM

Some things to bide the time, if you're interested:

Slate has an piece by Michael Levi about the green jobs program's chance at saving the economy and how he thinks it would be better to focus on each piece individually. (I'm not convinced; without the economic component, quite frankly, I'm not sure the green component would be addressed at all.)

The NYTimes is asking about "The Economy's 'Green Shoots,' Real or Imagined"
— and at least one of its experts uses the term "suckers' rallies" — as well as uses for abandoned malls. Not that we have any of those here or anything.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Empire Waste

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Heard about this while I was sitting in DFW this morning: The Empire State Building is going green.

Like our own federal building, the once world's tallest building is getting a green renovation, one that is expected to cut the building's energy use by 38 percent a year, saving $4.4 million annually.

From the NYTimes:

"Although the retrofit was specifically designed for the iconic Art Deco office building at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue and its massive features — 102 stories, 2.6 million square feet, 6,500 windows and 73 elevators — the energy-efficiency improvements are meant to serve as a model for other office buildings around the world, said Anthony E. Malkin, president of Wien & Malkin, the building’s owners.

He said upfront costs are often a deterrent for retrofitting older buildings, but the energy savings for the building , built in 1931, are expected to pay back those costs in only about three years."

Also, and I love this:

“'People associate greening with expense and compromise,' Mr. Malkin said. 'We’re trying to prove: no compromise and payback.'"

The retrofit includes upgrades to the electrical and ventillation systems, since most of the energy costs at the building come from the light and HVAC systems.

The NYT says that 78 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions come from its buildings. I think nationally that number is smaller, but a significant chunk of the gases that cause global warming come from buildings.

Both New York mayor Micheal Bloomberg and former president Bill Clinton were at the press conference this morning to announce the building's green switch.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Overton Park Petition

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Park Friends have started a petition against the proposed detention basin in Overton Park.

Essentially the city engineering department has chosen the greensward as the location for a new 12 to 14 foot deep detention basin to help with storm water drainage and flooding in nearby neighborhoods. To read more, click here.

Interested parties can sign the petition at Burke's Books, Breakaway Athletics, the Art Center, and Otherlands.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One Wall at a Time

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2009 at 3:40 PM

When UrbanArt executive director John Weeden spoke at last month's Urbanexus event, sponsored by Next American City magazine, he talked about how they were going to be "painting the town, literally."

"Visitors to Memphis see a crumbling and ugly landscape. That has to change," Weeden said. "I'm declaring war on ugly landscape."

One battle is well underway at Madison and Third where Chicago artist Jeff Zimmerman and Rhodes College students are constructing a five-story mural next to Redbirds stadium.



Called "A Note of Hope," the project is in collaboration with Rhodes' Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts (CODA) and the building's owner, Chick Hill.

At the Urbanexus event, Weeden noted that paint was a relatively easy and, especially in this economic climate, cost-effective way to radically transform an area.

I can't wait to see what this looks like when it's finished. Pre-trolley, I used to love driving down Madison to get to work in the mornings: the smell of the WonderBread factory, cresting over Danny Thomas, catching site of the morning sun glinting off of the Gassner building, seeing the city.

This just might have me detouring down Madison.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sprouted ... then Stomped

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2009 at 2:22 PM

I don't know if I've mentioned this here — and apparently I'm too lazy to use the search function — but this year I planned to plant a garden. (This was before Michelle Obama started hers. I'm not saying she copied me, but maybe we're both plugged into the same culture zeitgeist.) First, I thought a container garden was the way to go. (I've got limited space and I found this handy web guide, coincidentally done by a friend of mine.) Then another friend of mine pointed out that I might not have as much light as I think. And he was right. After careful study, it looks like any one spot near my house will only get about four hours of light and most vegetables need a nice round eight hours. So I signed up for a community garden at Shelby Farms. While I was waiting for the master gardeners or the county or whoever to plow the community plots and then stake them (you have to know where to plant), I went ahead and started some little seedlings on my windowsill. They sprouted and looked cute and sat there on the sill for a week or so (or more) and still no Shelby Farms staking (which is totally fine; it's been raining a lot). So no planting for my seedlings. But last weekend, some of them HAD to be moved. They were growing out of their little beds. I was still going to do a small container garden anyway, so I planted them in my little containers, hauled them into the front yard and dusted off my dirty palms with a nice "Good job" to myself.
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