Team Better Block workshop maps fall MEMFix event

As the MEMFix program celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC), city planners and community stakeholders gathered at the BAM Thrift Store on Madison Avenue to discuss planning of a MEMFix event that will happen in September or October using the empty storefronts at Madison and Cleveland.

The two-day planning workshop, led by national consulting group Team Better Block, took place on June 10 and 11.

Team Better Block has spearheaded tactical urbanism interventions across the country with a goal to bring together the arts, community, innovation and design to support streetscape improvements, art installation, pop-up shops, entertainment and revitalization.

The MEMFix program was launched under former Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton's Innovation Delivery Team five years ago, and since then MEMFix events have helped kickstart the revitalization of areas of the city like the Pinch District, the EDGE District, South Memphis, Crosstown and Highland/Walker.

MEMFix events are community-driven and involve tactical urbanism, creative placemaking, and urban prototyping, with neighborhood stakeholders envisioning and recreating livable streets, vibrant public spaces, and reinvigorated commercial areas.

“I think the two unique features of this area are its multiculturalism and the fact that it is a transportation hub with bike lanes, the trolleys (when they come back), and bus stops in both directions,” said Abby Miller, MMDC director of programs and data, who suggested a transit center approach.

Ideas for activating the area included setting up pop-up shops or temporary health care clinics where artists could come and trade their talents for health care services, similar to what Team Better Block helped facilitate at the O Positive Festival in Massachusetts.

Problems with the stretch of Madison Avenue near the Cleveland Avenue intersection include that it is too loud, vehicles drive too fast, and there are narrow sidewalks.

One remedy proposed was to create “parklets” in front of storefronts in the outer traffic lanes as traffic-calming devices, creating space for more café seating, a bocce court, or other games. Other suggestions included possibly setting up a coffee and newspaper stand in the median on Madison, installing public restrooms with artwork or intriguing designs surrounding them, and public phone charging stations, in part for the area’s homeless population.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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