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VOL. 133 | NO. 50 | Friday, March 9, 2018

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Gorillas in the Living Room

Dan Conaway

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IMPROVING THE VIEW. There are very large gorillas in our living room.

It seems these things are never seen when such a sight would spoil the vision at hand – except, of course, by those who see the reality of unpleasant things. Never mentioned in polite conversation – except, of course, by those who discuss unpleasant things. Avoided at all costs by those charged with promoting civic accomplishment – except by those who measure the cost of unpleasant things.

For decades they’ve been all but invisible. That’s a good trick when you’re a hulking million-and-a-half square feet of abandoned concrete and broken windows in Crosstown. Or a crumbling castle on our bluff reduced to ruin. Or 38 sad stories of abandoned offices on North Main in the tallest office building we have. Or a butt-ugly ’70s version of a convention center that offers no views of the river that made its city. Or a forgotten weedy mishmash of blocks of what once was between Downtown and the Medical Center. Or a huge round bowl of thousands of events and millions of memories left to its famous ghosts behind boarded doors smack dab in the middle of what we want to call brand new.

But now we see. Some of those primates have become prime real estate, and others are moving that way.

Crosstown Concourse is bringing us national attention, the good kind of national attention, the kind that says “look at what can happen when citizens and cities and imagination get their act together.” The Tennessee Brewery has been saved to the ramparts and has given Downtown apartment living new hops. After yet another round of mirrors, smoke and snake oil put the 100 North Main building on the courthouse steps, a new group with serious chops has serious plans for our tallest disappointment. Instead of the lipstick we slapped on it before, the convention center is getting the makeover it deserves. The Edge is actually moving to realize the promise it’s held for so long.

And now the city has issued a Request for Proposals for a master developer for the fairgrounds instead of trying to do it themselves by copying other cities and ignoring the gorilla, the Mid-South Coliseum, in the process. They’re even throwing in the Shelby County Schools headquarters, maybe Tobey Park and whatever that land is at the northwest corner of Central and Hollywood.

You see, when you see the whole picture, you can paint a better picture.

We can and are doing better. We’re opening our eyes to a Memphis we’ve failed to see and people from elsewhere are joining in the vision. The train station is being given a second second life, something new will rise from the ashes of The Blue Monkey, and maybe there’s hope for the Sterick Building, and for the building for sale on Union that once housed a significant local newspaper.

And neither Jefferson Davis nor Nathan Bedford Forrest will be here to see it.

I’m a Memphian, and let’s see.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

PROPERTY SALES 69 163 12,921
MORTGAGES 35 85 8,088
BUILDING PERMITS 109 531 30,465
BANKRUPTCIES 18 85 6,149