VOL. 131 | NO. 102 | Monday, May 23, 2016
Last Word: Graduation Day, St. Jude's New Office Tower and Another Bike Map
By Bill Dries
The chances are pretty good that you encountered someone in a cap and gown this weekend.
It is graduation season and Shelby County Schools kicked it off Saturday with 14 high school graduations – that’s in one day.
It included six graduation ceremonies at the Memphis Cook Convention Center and the adjoining Cannon Center for the Performing Arts -- again on the same day. Greater Imani Chirstian Church in Raleigh hosted three graduations Saturday and Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova was the site of two graduations in the same day.
There were four more SCS graduations Sunday around town with another 18 from Monday to Saturday.
Speaking of schools, the plans for Crosstown High School appear to have gone back to the idea of a charter school in Crosstown Concourse although the doors haven’t closed entirely on an SCS optional school there.
There is still some time for either option to come together since the high school, in whatever form it takes, is planned for the 2017-2018 school year.
Organizers of the school launched a new website that is included in our story.
The first big piece of the $9 billion strategic plan for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is an $84.5 million 10-story office tower for ALSAC – the fundraising arm of the hospital. ALSAC stands for American Lebanese-Syrian Associated Charities.
About a billion of the $9 billion plan is in capital costs or construction. So there is much more to come.
The plan is more than bricks and mortar although that promises to have a significant impact on the broader area.
St. Jude president and CEO James Downing talked recently about the medical and scientific advances the hospital is undertaking with the expansion. Downing comes from a research background, describing himself as a “bad cop” scientific director when it came to scrutinizing results of research.
St. Jude national outreach director Marlo Thomas, the daughter of hospital founder Danny Thomas, talked about this in 2014 as the hospital opened a global education and collaboration center. She talked of treatments eliminating the need for chemotherapy as a treatment.
Everything about this strategic plan that we’ve seen so far indicates it has a historic ambition to it.
In Soulsville, there are big plans as well. Madeline Faber talks with the new owner of the Soulsville Town Center in the cover story of our weekly, The Memphis News.
Tom Shadyac talks about his vision of a “One Family” community center in a building whose anchor was to originally be a supermarket.
And in Whitehaven, as the school year comes to an end this week, there is much work to do over the summer on the Shelby County Schools empowerment zone that will use Whitehaven High as a capital of sorts over a system that includes five elementary and middle schools in the general area.
Still not enough plans out there for you? City Hall announced Friday that it will let groups with architects and other experts into the mothballed Mid-South Coliseum for a week in June to take their own look around. The idea is for the groups, and more importantly their experts, to get a better look at the bones of the building and its structural integrity with an eye toward what it would take to bring the roundhouse back in some form.
The Coliseum Coalition group, which has organized two “Roundhouse Revivals” outside the building to build awareness, has already taken its turn looking over what’s inside structurally.
They are preparing a specific report.
The CFO of BRIDGES is retiring after 11 years, holding steady the financial helm of the organization that brings together students from across the county in ways that build along the lines of diversity to pay dividends after graduation.
It turns out the new CFO was in the Bridge Builders program when she was in high school.
We have another entry in our ongoing discussion about the need for a comprehensive map of bike pathways, trails, greenways, greenlines and bike lanes. Those in existence and those planned with a way to update such a map as these different routes and connections become reality.
Nicholas Oyler of the Metropolitan Planning Organization sent us an email Friday to let us now about the MPO’s bike map.
Oyler is the MPO’s transportation planner and bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Memphis Urban Area.
The MPO map takes a few steps to get into: you open the map, then open the transportation infrastructure tab on the left and then the bicycle facilities tab which then lets you turn on different layers for existing bike lanes and shared use paths among other types of ways to go on bicycle.
There are map layers for what is planned and what is recommended and one for everything altogether.
The advantage of this is it shows you beyond Memphis into Fayette County and DeSoto County.
Hernando has quite the network, we should note.
Oyler says the MPO map is updated regularly and acknowledges this isn’t the kind of map we talked about last week – a map that allows you to see the possibilities for bike routes on a countywide or regional basis and/or then break it down into corridors if you desire.
The Mid-South Regional Greenprint has the corridor breakdowns you are looking for.
But it would be nice to have all of this in one place.
The MPO map is certainly a good start toward a place to get the broad regional view and figure out for yourself what you can do on a bike here.
It also includes a layer of Memphis Area Transit Authority bus routes and stops that introduce the idea of mixing and matching transportation options.
The steps to get to this are a problem we noted at the outset Friday as several of us gave the MPO map a test drive.
Last week, we heard from historian Jimmy Ogle about the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau bike map, an actual physical fold-up map from 2015 that is also an admirable effort.
Put all three of these options into one form or base with which to work from digitally even if it is a set of huge interactive screens at places like the Shelby Farms Park Visitors Center, the CVB Welcome Center by the river and similar locations. And then make sure it is online in one location.
The result, we believe, is a system of bikeways that are no longer a secret hiding in plain sight, but a means to discover Memphis and the region that lets each person who uses this tool call their own shots in terms of what they want.
The Memphis News Almanac: Memphis manufacturing 10 years ago, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Memphis debut, The Big Show of ’59 and bus and streetcar competition.