Friday, September 23, 2005

Imagining A New Future For The Fairgrounds

If we, indeed, could muster the civic courage to demolish the Mid-South Coliseum, how could we re-use the land?

A drive through the Cooper-Young neighborhood during last weekend's festival revealed a surprising amount of new construction and renovations -- exactly the kind of activity the City of Memphis wants to encourage.

Former Parks Director Wayne Boyer had a vision of starting over at the Fairgrounds by removing existing buildings (except the Liberty Bowl) and building a new collection of modern sports facilities for the community. He imagined a dynamic center of sports that would pull people, especially families with children, into Midtown.

What he didn't imagine was the opportunity to re-use at least a portion of the Fairgrounds for private development.

When you consider the growing strength of Cooper-Young, it is not hard to imagine a completely new set of uses for the Fairgrounds property that could bridge Cooper-Young and the neighborhoods just to the east of the Fairgrounds all the way to the University of Memphis where Dr. Shirley Raines also has the neighborhood development bug. New sports facilities could be the centerpiece of the new Fairgrounds neighborhood.

(New York urban planner Alex Garvin imagined using the "minor sports" facilities planned for the NY Olympics to revitalize neighborhoods throughout the city's boroughs.)

Maybe it's time for a first-class charrette with nationally prominent designers unencumbered with what is and has been to consider the possibilities.

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