Broad Avenue, through what is now the
Broad Avenue Arts District, was once the main street of the bustling
commercial center for the entire Binghampton neighborhood. In the
1950s, I-40 was scheduled to slice through the neighborhood one block
off of Broad Avenue, and cut through Memphis' central greenspace,
Overton Park. Citizens and Overton Park advocates organized to fight against this plan, taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, finally winning with a decision that saved the park in 1971 and established new rules for planning highways and roads in neighborhoods across the U.S..
the damage to Binghampton was already done – a swath of divided
highway built to the perimeter of the park bisected the neighborhood, destroying neighborhood connectivity to the commercial district. For decades, the district
struggled with crime and blight. In 2006, Broad began to slowly emerge as an
arts district with a group of pioneers sharing a vision for arts and
community. To truly thrive, however, the area needed more
investment—both emotional and financial.
2010, Livable Memphis and various partners had determined that the Hampline, an on-street trail connecting the nearby rail-to-trail Shelby Farms Greenline to
Overton Park through the Broad Avenue Arts District was key to the area's transportation infrastructure.
demonstrate to the community the potential in the Broad Avenue
district and hopefully spur interest, Livable Memphis moved to stoke
the imagination of the community and prospective stakeholders. Using a borrowed and adapted concept from a Dallas-area group, The Better Block, Livable Memphis and a team of neighborhood leaders created a temporary exhibit of what a new arts district could
look like. We thought this New
Face For an Old Broad
event could be an ideal trial and educational tool for community
members, entrepreneurs and engineers alike.
it Came Together
we teamed up with the Broad Avenue Arts Alliance, members of which enthusiastically supported the idea. Together we:
and measured the roadway and asked some talented volunteers to make
every community stakeholder to the table to share ideas;
property owners to let us inside to do a quick clean in all those
existing businesses to open their storefronts;
a call out for donations of paint, rollers, artists, skilled
craftsmen, brooms, and shovels;
three neighborhood schools to adopt a crosswalk that their students
would design and paint.
the week leading up to the November 19-20, 2010 event, we worked with
volunteers and area business owners to open up storefronts and move
in pop-up shops and restaurants. Most importantly though, we
recreated the public space on the street to illustrate how better
infrastructure can breath life into a commercial district. Focused on
bicyclists and pedestrians instead of cars, we:
pedestrian bump-outs to make it safer to cross the streets;
parking spots and added protected bikes lanes to narrow the street
and slow traffic while buffering cyclists and pedestrians from
traffic with parked cars;
crosswalks and added pedestrian-crossing street signs;
streetlights, benches, bike racks and trees in planters.
a few thousand dollars in paint and rollers and a lot of donated
time, energy and supplies from people who shared the vision, Broad
Avenue was transformed. 15,000 people visited Broad Avenue that
weekend and had a great time exploring the new Broad.
“temporary” streetscape has stayed and is awaiting a more complete and
permanent version with construction of the Hampline.
the success of the event, the City of Memphis joined us as a partner
in the area bringing entrepreneurial support to the district through
its MEMShop program. Through the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team (now Innovate Memphis), a new program - MEMFix – was begun as a City
co-sponsored version of the New Face on an Old Broad event. MEMFix has since become regular and popular events in neighborhoods across Memphis.
significantly for the area, the New Face for an Old Broad
event has inspired more than $25 million in investments in the Broad
Ave Arts District and Binghampton Neighborhood:
businesses have moved in permanently and existing businesses have
have been renovated, sold and rented.
and sculptures have been added.
- Binghampton Development Corporation is moving forward with a new grocery and retail project at Sam Cooper and Tillman.
Interested in how programs like MEMFix can work in your neighborhood? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to make your vision for the community a reality.