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Creating a Real Renaissance in Downtown Memphis

10:29 AM EST on November 9, 2009

This morning on the Streetsblog Network, Smart City Memphis lays out what they call "Downtown's case against City Hall for abandonment." The post details how politicians systematically pulled financial and planning resources out of the city's core, even as they touted the importance of a vibrant city center for Memphis's future:

beale_fedexforum_1.jpgMoney in Memphis has gone to big projects like the FedEx forum, not to improving the downtown's streetscapes.

At the precise time that city elected officials were delivering
uplifting rhetoric about the importance of downtown to the overall
economic health of the region, to attracting and retaining talent and
to its role as “welcome mat” to Memphis, it was engaged in a financial
sleight of hand that largely set downtown adrift.…

[W]e have a proposal. We think that the Center City
Commission should invite teams -- architects, residents, urbanists,
young professionals and others – that would survey downtown and send in
recommendations to Center City Commission.

After all, we walk
the streets. We know downtown block by block. We know every special
spot and every ugly wart. We know every unsightly sign put up by MATA,
we know every landscaping mistake and we know every place trash
accumulates.

Why not appoint us as special hit squads that’ll
issue reports on the state of downtown and recommendations for
improving things? We would demand downtown improvements, a design ethos
and for regular reports that could be shared with elected officials on
what has to be done for the city’s core to be healthier and more
competitive.

I visited Memphis last spring and was struck by its unrealized potential -- both in terms of downtown infrastructure and human resources. Several people I met talked about how much they love the city and want to stay there -- but how they are being forced out by a lack of opportunity.

Smart City's post is an indication of how much potential energy there is in that place. How amazing would it be if City Hall could have the foresight and humility to take their suggestion and tap some of it?

More from around the network: DC Bicycle Transportation Examiner wants to make the point that bicycles are not just a white thing. Let's Go Ride a Bike talks about the natural attractiveness of bicycles. And The Infrastructurist reports on another massive construction project in China -- one that will destroy 10,000 homes in central Beijing.

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