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This Old House Nods to Central Gardens

Central Gardens has been recognized by The Old House magazine as one of the “Best Old House Neighborhoods 2012: The South.”

The list features 15 charming areas south of the Mason-Dixon Line with historic and one-of-a-kind homes.

Here are just a few of the reasons Memphis’ “83-block first-tier suburb” made the cut:

  • Entire neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Entire neighborhood was designated a Level 3 Arboretum through the Tennessee Arboretum Certification Program in 2008
  • Architecture represented includes Tudor Revival, Neoclassical, Mediterranean Revival, American Foursquare and Craftsman styles
  • Home prices starting at $150,000 and ranging up to more than $1 million
  • Landscaped and maintained houses, many with striking millwork and wide front porches
  • More than 90 different species of trees line the streets
  • Boasts residents who have called the district home for 50 years or more
  • Central Gardens Association has overseen the restoration and maintenance of the area since 1967
  • Walkability and easy access to Cooper-Young, Overton Square

Central Gardens is the second Memphis neighborhood in recent weeks to receive national kudos. Cooper-Young was named one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2012 under the American Planning Association’s Great Places in America program, noted for its revitalization, character and historic architecture.

Steve Mulroy vs. Alberto Gonzales

Here’s something you don’t see every day:

Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, a former Justice Department attorney and staunch Democrat, probing George W. Bush’s former U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales on the legal justification for drone attacks and on whether the president has the power to unilaterally declare an American an enemy combatant.

That’s what happened during a morning presentation today at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Gonzales was less emphatic on whether the president has that power than he was in saying, once the president has declared someone an enemy combatant, he has no qualms about the president pressing a button, so to speak, to send out a drone.

In Gonzales’ words, “I’ve got no problem with the president taking you out.”

Regarding whether the president can on his own declare an American to be an enemy combatant, Gonzales said as long as there is a process set up to make that determination, then the president would seem to be on good legal ground.

I’ll be writing more in the print edition of the paper about Gonzales’ broader presentation, which included some encouragement to the students to take big risks and not settle as they pursue their careers.

A handful of Robert Pera Grizzlies partners still to be revealed

Everything seems to be lining up for Robert Pera to become the new controlling owner of the Memphis Grizzlies.

I’ve been told that the NBA board of governors is expected to vote on Pera’s bid for the team this Thursday, Oct. 25. The Commercial Appeal reported Wed. that another name has joined the mix of Pera’s partners: He’s Steve Kaplan, a principal and portfolio manager for Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management, L.P.

That makes 13 partners identified so far. I’ve been told there are 2-3 more potential partners from outside Memphis (it’s looking like more private equity involvement) and 4-5 more Memphis area partners likely to join the mix who have not been publicly identified yet.

It should take less than a week from the time the NBA approves the deal for Pera and the current owner, Michael Heisley, to finalize the transaction between them, I’ve been told.

Some Memphis representatives also are likely to be in New York City this Thursday for the vote.

Season’s End At Mud Island

 

The seasons are just about to change at Mud Island River Park. Not the one in which the trees are turning to their fall colors, although that is also happening in the park.

The park on the southern end of Mud Island is open to visitors from April through Oct. 31.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about an exhibit in the park’s river museum on the origins of the park’s most distinctive feature – the scale model of the Mississippi River.

It is a fitting way to mark the end of the park’s 30th season. And Jimmy Ogle of the Riverfront Development Corporation, which runs the park for the city, tells us the exhibit on Nesbit Coltharp, the designer of the River Walk, will probably be back at some point next season.

Coltharp’s renderings and notes on features of the River Walk are precise which can prompt questions about why a lifelong Memphian looking at them feels so whimsical.

Maybe, that Memphian, whoever he is, is just whimsical. Or maybe it says something about Mud Island as a repository of sorts for civic dreams of years gone by.

Coltharp’s drawings and plans from early 1980 still bear the name “Volunteer Park” which was the early incarnation of a riverside park on the island. It grew from there to include a museum. Before you could say “monorail” there were other attractions including a River Walk.

But there were some ideas that didn’t make the cut. There was talk of relocating the rides at the Fairgrounds that became part of Libertyland including the Zippin Pippin roller coaster.

When the Fairgrounds area was cleared for Tiger Lane not too long ago, there was some renewed discussion of the carousel moving to Mud Island.

The name “Volunteer Park” wasn’t the last attempt to change the island’s name.

When the city turned over the park to Pyramid developer Sidney Shlenker in the early 1990s, it prompted a flood of ideas that would now be the bulk of a whimsy exhibit should the RDC choose to go that way.

Shlenker had plans for the park that were never realized including changing the name to Festival Island with multiple stages for musical acts. And an Egyptian-themed link from the Pyramid to an event area he called “Rakapolis.”

He held several days of auditions at Sam Phillips Recording studio for what seemed to be every musical act that had a gig at any time for any reason in any part of the city.

What we often forget about whimsy is that it isn’t necessarily effortless. I watched one night of the auditions which were an opportunity to get each of the acts on tape for judgment at a later date. It was an amazing array of talent. I still recall watching the guy at the sound board, whom I later learned was Stan Kesler, pull a sandwich out of his lunch bag as he continued to record about a dozen more acts.

For all of those plans, however, the park succeeds on a simpler level that perhaps isn’t as flashy. And because it is an island, it is easy for those of us who live here to forget that.

The desire to wade in the waters of the River Walk remains and the most common temporary feature along the River Walk during the summer months are shoes and socks in a wide range of sizes – some of them just small enough to require three or four steps to make it across the miniature city of Memphis, maybe more if the owner of the feet wants to wander into East Shelby County.

“When you leave at the end of the day you see abandoned socks. And people have these little makeshift boats they’ve made out of newspapers and cups,” Ogle said of a perennial maintenance item.

Coltharp’s plans from 1980 include the familiar aerial view of tree tops that took several years to develop. The River Walk of 30 years later by spring and summer is a lush environment of trees and shrubs and plantings maintained by the park’s staff. By fall it offers leaves of many colors for the river passage. Leaves have a gentler journey on clear waters most often noticed by younger eyes closer to the ground.

By winter, the bare branches cast long shadows on sunny days and a jagged frame for a gray river border on others.

But that’s the off season. And it is almost upon us.

 

St. Louis School Adds Memphis Music Art to Exterior of Hotel Chisca

The Downtown Memphis Commission and Hotel Chisca development team have invited St. Louis Catholic School to participate in a project to help build a more vibrant city through art.

Selected student art banners will be displayed along the fence surrounding the Hotel Chisca to help beautify the long-vacant building before and during upcoming construction.

The Hotel Chisca is where Elvis was first played on air from the WHBQ radio studios in 1954 on Dewey Phillips “Red, Hot and Blue” Show. The student artwork is fittingly inspired by Memphis music and includes funky chickens, Rufus Thomas, Elvis and hound dogs. As a part of the community-oriented project, St. Louis students learned about the city’s musical history and impact in their curriculum.

An unveiling ceremony of the 30 art banners will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hotel Chisca. The St. Louis School Show Choir will perform Memphis music songs for the event.

The event will also tie into the RiverArts Festival, which will be taking place a few blocks south.

Artist/student: Elizabeth Atkinson

Artist/student: Mickey Hossenlopp

Artist/student: Caroline Duran

Dansette

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