The following is Memphis Heritage’s official statement opposing demolition of Overton Square. It was made by Executive Director June West during the informal meeting held by Councilman Shea Flinn on December 9, 2009.
The structures at Overton Square represent the fabric of our Midtown area.
Citizens choose to live in Midtown Memphis because of its character and architectural design and age. It has a certain eclectic overview that is not found in any other part of our city. It draws locals and transplants to live work and play. A big reason the midtown area is attractive to the “creative class” is that it is not homogenized; it does not look like everywhere else USA.
Memphis Heritage believes that with a well planned sensitive development, the Overton Square Area will thrive again! Not as an entertainment district as in years past but as a destination location for Midtown and the rest of Memphis. Bringing a more solid tax base to the area and increasing support of other Overton Square businesses.
There are new city planning policies coming soon with the adoption of the Unified Development Code for Memphis and Shelby County. Along with the UDC plan comes the outline/skeleton for good urban planning to occur in Memphis. Please delay this demo/plan until the UDC is in place to protect this diverse area of midtown.
We are always saying we want Memphis to attract the creative/imaginative leaders to live and work in Memphis.
This type of person chooses Midtown Memphis because of its social diversity, its cultural fabric, and its differences. They come and are attracted to Midtown Memphis because of our history not because of their wants for a generic big box grocery with a retail strip mall surrounding it that they can find in the suburbs surrounding Memphis.
To quote Mayor Wharton’s own Sustainable Shelby Plan, Memphis needs to “foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place! Where buildings have distinctive characteristics by type, period or method of construction and have high artistic value and functional distinctiveness.” His plan “encourages community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions”. Mayor Wharton’s plan also recommends us to “focus and reuse and revitalize to create solutions. And that these solutions take on a long term view without being restrained by today’s fiscal environment.”
His plan also highlights that we need an increase in mixed land use and that in order for an area to be sustainable it must have “walk ability” and connectivity to place to live to work and to play.
Memphis Heritage requests that the Memphis City Council delay issuing a demo permit for the buildings at Overton Square until there is more community collaboration on the proposed plan from Sooner Investments and until their plan is submitted to OPD for review.