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VOL. 131 | NO. 203 | Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: In Defense of The Cossitt, Joe Royer and 3 Months Since The Bridge

By Bill Dries

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Citizens of Memphis, I rise in defense of the city’s first public library. Not in its original much-loved state but in defense of its much-ridiculed modernization.

No, I will not follow that with a defense of John Calipari or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s location in Cleveland instead of Memphis or the late Mo’ Money Taxes and the company’s commercials. But I reserve the right to, at some future date, defend the big silver sculpture thing on the northeast corner of Front and Poplar at the Cannon Center.

Let us begin.

In our Newsmakers Emphasis: We look at the Fourth Bluff efforts, which at least to me is better defined at this point as “things between things” on the northern bluff top. This is Memphis Park and Mississippi River Park, down the bluff. It is the area behind the U of M Law School, which is being referred to as the “third park on the fourth bluff.” And last but certainly not least – this is the Cossitt Library which the planners describe as the center piece of this whole concept.

And let’s be clear, we are talking about inside the library as well as the back lawn area of the library facing the harbor, which has some of the most whimsical old trees in this city of trees. When you look at pictures of the Cossitt in its 19th century red sandstone castle glory, the modern front grafted onto it in the late 1950s doesn’t compare very well – certainly at first glance, maybe second, third and fourth.

But it may be time to rise in defense of the mid-century modern functionality that if fully restored could exert its own nostalgic force some 58 years later. Taking what is there and the spirit in which it was created, the Cossitt’s front could be a jewel. It has always been either hidden or sheltered, depending on your opinion of it, from Front Street by its front courtyard that once featured a fountain. The waters added to the tranquility although I’m certain it was a pain to keep working and the modern sculpture that was part of the fountain was beheaded several times necessitating its move indoors after restoration to the Central Library. It’s still a fine place to watch leaves fall from the trees that further enclose the area and watch them dance in the breeze before forming their own lines of fall colors along the walls of the courtyard.

Each of us come from our own memories on this and you are dealing with someone here who was more excited about getting a library card the moment I was old enough from the Frayser Branch library than he was about getting a learner’s permit to drive a station wagon at 16. The Frayser library is the smallest library in terms of square footage of any library in the system and it was the world to me from its little chairs and little tables to its several sets of encyclopedias and a book table with an area to stand books so the spines of the new titles were visible at a glance to its hushed tones and the smell of its books – new as well as old and trusted or old and unmet by this reader.

The red sandstone part of the current Cossitt is a jewel as well – a different kind of jewel from a different era. And the engineering study underway will determine how much can be done and what its potential is.

While we wait for the word on the nuts and bolts – the bricks and mortar – it’s worth considering that the Cossitt could be the cultural gateway on our riverfront.

Also in the Emphasis, Joe Royer of Outdoors Inc. who describes the evolution of his 41-year old business to a “specialty business” with “a different business model” from the national retailers you might think of as competition. Royer on his customers and what they need: “When you’re 25, you’re fit and you’re broke. When you’re about 45 or 50, you’ve got the peak of your career but you don’t need to be quite as aerodynamic on your bike.”

And Millington’s solar farm which at 402 acres straddles the boundary between the Navy and the town. We’ve now had a couple of these installations in the area and the financial side of this can be tricky when it comes to what happens to the power generated. TVA buying the power is an essential element and TVA policies have changed over the years reflecting different thoughts about solar’s place in single home construction versus commercial development rooftops and farms like the one being built in Millington.

All three of these pieces are in advance of Tuesday’s Daily News Newsmakers Seminar – a first in the long-running seminar series that is a bit more timely topic than it is business segment. For the first one of these Tuesday at the Brooks moderated by Eric Barnes, our publisher, we have the leaders of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the Overton Park Conservancy and the Wolf River Conservancy as well as representatives of the Office of Planning and Development and Explore Bike Share. It starts at 3 p.m.

Three months since the bridge protest of July that shutdown the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland prepares to begin a series of neighborhood meetings that are a result of the Black Lives Matter movement protests. And in those three months there’s been a shift to economic issues. It’s not a shift to the exclusion of the issue of police conduct and police training. But that primary issue that fueled the protest has company in the spotlight. And Strickland believes jobs and economic development will be a dominant topic when the town hall meetings start Oct. 25 in Frayser.

But the shift isn’t just a matter of Strickland’s priorities. The leaders of the march were not completely on the same page with one another either in the July 10 rally at FedExForum that then became the march to the bridge. The conflicting views coming through a bull horn that protest leaders were jostling for were a reason Frank Gottie moved to the street for a march that wasn’t planned and a large group of people followed. The different views aren’t at all unusual for such a big issue.

There are 250 acres of surface parking lots in the Memphis Medical District, an area that is about the size of Harbor Town, that the Memphis Medical District Collaborative sees as ground zero for residential and other development. Leaders of the effort including the national consultant working with the collaborative are the featured guests on the WKNO TV program Behind the Headlines. That consultant, Paolo Nunes-Ueno, also opens the door during the discussion to a shuttle or transit system within the district that isn’t necessarily MATA. The show is on the video page of this website.

A preview of the Musculoskeletal New Ventures Conference, a national gathering, that gets underway at FedEx Institute next week on the University of Memphis campus. It will feature 24 companies, many of them startups working with local accelerators.

My restraint can stand no more ... a musculoskeletal conference in our city two weeks before Halloween. Those who attend wearing skeleton shirts or complete outfits should get a discount. And just wearing the gloves doesn’t count.

Melissa Etheridge on NPR talking about her latest project which is a tribute to Memphis soul recorded deep in the heart of South Memphis at Royal. And a slight correction in the NPR piece. Stax did not burn down. It was demolished in the late 1980s. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a reconstructed replica of the original building.

A couple of Note 7 notes. First Samsung changes its output schedule in an indication the crisis over the fire-prone devices is deepening. And AP with a breakdown of your options if you own a Note 7.

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BUILDING PERMITS 157 441 6,509
BANKRUPTCIES 61 133 1,920