Tuesday, August 05, 2008

From: The Gates of Memphis

Completing Main Street

View from the Lincoln-American Tower
When the Center City Commission asked the public about returning auto traffic to Main Street, the public came out strongly against the idea.

There have been many arguments for returning traffic to Main. The CCC's retail consultant made the argument. The NEA Director of Design, Maurice Cox recommended it. His predecessor at the NEA, Jeff Speck, made it one of his 12 suggestions for Memphis.

Even if public sentiment for the pedestrian over the car is technically flawed from an urban design point of view, such sentiment is still a good, progressive sign for Memphis. And I want to point out that Speck had also suggested fixing the South Main knuckle, the walking discontinuity formed by the Main/Beale parking lot, MLG&W's mega-berm and parking garage, and the empty Chisca. I believe that the knuckle is a much greater obstacle to Main Street revitality. It cuts Main Street off from the energy of both South Main and Beale Street (which is itself auto restricted yet prospers). I don't think returning traffic without fixing the knuckle will fix Main Street.

The CCC will decide later this month what it will do. They could still open Main to traffic. At the very least, I hope the public's opposition will keep them from the more invasive, multi-million dollar projects. Maybe the opposition will lead the Commission to take Speck's specific advice and try a woonerf, a simple plan that would make the pedestrian and the car and the bike equals on Main.

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