MEMFix re-imagines the Edge

On Saturday thousands visited the Edge district for the latest urban renewal project, MEMFix: Edge. The one-day, community-driven effort was designed to help attendees envision a reinvigorated Edge District.
The City of Memphis and Livable Memphis have done some tactical learning as they’ve fine-tuned their tactical urbanism strategies to deliver their latest project, MEMFix: Edge, culminating a best-of compilation of all their previous efforts. On board were 25 vendors, 12 pop-up shops, close to 10 food trucks, and several mobile retailers representing the newest Mem-brand, MEMMobile, like food trucks but with retail.

Events included two stages with several musical acts including James and the Ultrasounds as headliners; youth engagement activities including a pop-up planning office, tours and input sessions for the adolescent contingent; a mini film festival, featuring Edge-District inspired films facilitated by FuelFilm’s 48-hour film-launch project Take One; and an antique car show to celebrate the neighborhood’s automotive history. Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op offered a free bike valet in an effort to encourage alternative transportation to and from the event. 

Livable Memphis showcased their new Mobile Front Porch project, an 18-foot-trailer converted into a front porch, complete with ceiling fans, lawn chairs and tablets.

And again, the centerpiece being another street diet for the neighborhood’s main corridors, Marshall and Monroe Aves. “The biggest concern we hear over and over again from the neighborhood is how bad the traffic speeds down Marshall. I sit in our temporary office at 664, and I watch cars just fly down the street,” John Paul Shaffer, Program Director of Livable Memphis said.

The four lane street was reduced to two with bike lanes and new parking taking advantage of the excess lanes, and bumpouts created with plastic pylons at the five-part intersection of Marshall and Monroe. “We’re approaching the bumpouts as plaza space. It’s what’s been done in New York, where they’ve taken back excess street space to the people and provided places to stand while you wait to cross or sit down and take a rest and enjoy a drink,” Shaffer said. “These will be permanent. The neighborhood wants to try to bring people up Monroe through the Edge to Sun Studio and attract foot traffic from the Medical Center.”

Shaffer and company have struck social capital gold with Edge neighborhood stakeholders, who have been slowly engendering efforts through the years to become a neighborhood of choice to city residents and business owners. “It’s been a very supportive climate for this sort of work,” Shaffer said.

According to Tommy Pacello, project manager for the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, adaptive and perceptive city leadership is helping provide an environment that’s conducive to continued grassroots invigoration like the Edge MEMFix project.  “The idea is to build, measure, learn. Our city engineer deserves a huge recognition for how progressive and insightful he has been. You won’t see that in many other cities, the incredibly smart idea to build, measure and then learn. Instead of spending lots of money on studies, you just do these temporary projects and see how people respond,” Pacello said.

Now that the MEMFix: Edge District event is complete, Livable Memphis will finish compiling its “how-to” manual for future tactical urbanism projects so that when neighborhood stakeholders have a plan, they will also have an implementation model. Sarah Newstock, special projects strategist for Livable Memphis, thinks the interest in these kinds of projects will continue to grow. “People are looking for an opportunity to be a part of something great and creative and new. This is the perfect mix. Getting people involved in designing their own neighborhoods is a beautiful thing."

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