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VOL. 128 | NO. 102 | Friday, May 24, 2013

Grant Turns Broad Avenue Dock Into Dance Stage

By Bill Dries

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The concrete surface of the loading dock at Power & Tel on Broad Avenue isn’t good for ballet dancing.

The Collage Dance Collective performed as the Broad Avenue Arts District announced a grant for a performance dance stage.

(Photo: Bill Dries)

So the dancers with Collage Dance Collective went with modern dance instead Wednesday, May 22, as the Broad Avenue Arts District formally announced a $350,000 grant from ArtPlace America that will turn part of the loading dock into a dance performance stage.

The dock will continue to be a working space during the day for Power & Tel. But the conversion of the dock for entertainment on the weekends and at night is part of a conversion of the property that also includes the iconic Broad Avenue Water Tower.

The performance space will debut in April with the first annual Broad Avenue Dance Festival to be followed with two months of free community dance concerts, all coordinated by Collage Dance Collective.

Dancers from Danze Azteca Quetzalcoatl also performed for the Wednesday kickoff.

David Wayne Brown, president of the Historic Broad Business Association, called the kickoff a key moment in the revitalization of the area east of Overton Park as an arts district.

ArtPlace is a collaboration among 13 national and regional nonprofit foundations and six national banks that work with the National Endowment for the Arts and federal agencies.

Among the foundations that are part of ArtPlace is Bloomberg Philanthropies, the nonprofit of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his family.

Bloomberg is already working with the city in the Binghampton area and two other Memphis neighborhoods – South Memphis and Crosstown – with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s Innovation Delivery Team.

“We are becoming known everywhere about creative place making,” Wharton said as he stood on the parking lot by the loading dock. “There’s only one of these. You can’t order this anywhere. This is uniquely Memphis.”

The funding for the water tower and loading dock project goes specifically to the Binghampton Development Corp. and the Historic Broad Business Association.

“Obviously this is important for the neighborhood in an economic sense,” said Robert Montague, executive director of the Binghampton Development Corp. “It is building a sustainable small-business economy in the neighborhoods, providing revenue and tax base and jobs and those practical things that make the world go around. Also it provides so much in return for the public.”

The next step for the water tower’s transformation is a national call for proposals from artists that will be overseen by the UrbanArt Commission.

The property is owned by Loeb Properties.

“To see these cities that are regenerating and rebuilding themselves is just really exciting,” said Bob Loeb, president of Loeb Properties. “It’s really regenerative if you give it a chance and part of pulling people together to work for the common good is it’s a lot of fun.”

Further fueling what Wharton described as a “grassroots renaissance” is an $80,000 grant from FedEx Corp. to complete the western end of the Broad Avenue Connector bike trail, taking it to the intersection with East Parkway and the eastern end of Overton Park.

The intersection is being designed by the Overton Park Conservancy as an entrance to the park’s trail system specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists, and a way east out of the park into the arts district.

Instead of bicycle lanes on both sides of Broad, the district will have two-way bike lanes on the south side of Broad with a barrier shielding the bicyclists from auto traffic.

And Iberia Bank has donated $18,000 to match a $65,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create art stations along the connector bike trail that links the western end of the Shelby Farms Greenline on Tillman Avenue to Overton Park at East Parkway.

In April, Wharton and Montague formally opened the renovated Tillman Crossing apartments at 220 Tillman Ave. adjoining the western end of the Greenline. The development corporation also moved its offices nearby to 280 Tillman.

The development corporation undertook the renovation and rehabilitation of the apartments with state funding from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and matching money from area churches. It has also renovated another apartment complex across the street from Tillman Crossing.

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