Now more than ever, every Memphian can feel the heat from our bare streets and sidewalks. But did you know walking under trees can be at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler? Cities all over the world have realized that trees keep us cooler, our air cleaner, and our surroundings more beautiful. MidtownMemphis.org is working with stakeholders to improve Madison Avenue between Avalon and Angelus (in front of Cash Saver) to make this struggling neighborhood more livable.
Madison Avenue has seen its share of improvements in the Medical District and Overton Square but we think it’s time that this section of Madison deserves some attention as well. The long-term goal is to make this area safer, more attractive, and strengthen its sense of place. Our hope is that the community and commuters eventually see this area as a place Memphians care about.
In my opinion, this area of Madison is the heart of Midtown Memphis. It is seeing a population increase due to the addition of the Madison Midtown apartments and the reemergence of Minglewood Hall as well as several other projects and developments in the area. However, the area has been neglected and is a danger to pedestrians, bus riders, scooter riders and bicyclists. Walking across Madison at Angelus or Avalon is more than a challenge and is quite dangerous.
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We can do better
Madison Avenue through Midtown was redesigned in 2011 to add bike lanes and on-street parking. The on-street parking lane in front of the Cash Saver is used regularly as a passing and turning lane by speeding cars heading west on Madison, which can be lethal for pedestrians. Over the last decade, City of Memphis records indicate close to 500 crashes in this area resulting in more than 54 recorded pedestrian injuries and one death.
Clearly marked crosswalks and narrowing the flow of traffic would help tremendously. Painting and landscaping the parking lane would do wonders for pedestrians. Not to mention make it clear that this lane is not for vehicles. Large self-watering planters could be added in the underused parking lane as well as the underused portion of the Cash Saver parking lot, possibly in the triangles at the end of each row of cars.
MidtownMemphis.org has created a conceptual improvement plan after holding multiple meetings and conversations with adjacent property and business owners and neighborhood association representatives.
A kickoff project was installed on both sides of Avalon just South of Madison with the help of a grant from Memphis City Beautiful and assistance from The Works, Inc. Two eastern red buds and two red mulberry trees were planted along with button bushes, beauty berries , and black-eyed Susan’s.
Next, we will be planting a dozen more trees along the sidewalk of Angelus which is the east side of the Cash Saver parking lot. The existing sidewalk is only a few feet wide and there are no overhead powerlines making it “a perfect area for street trees.”
In Phase two we will be working with the city engineering department to redesignate the on-street parking to a no parking zone and get improvements to the crosswalks. Large planters will be added in the no parking zone similar to those in the Medical District.
Then on Friday, September 16th, we will hold another Park(ing) Day event in front of Cash Saver. Park(ing) Day is an international event, held annually that is held to reimagine parking spaces as tiny parks and places for art. We will have information about the Madison Avenue Midtown Improvement project available and we will be collecting comments from the public.
All of this ties in with our “Shade is Cool” campaign that is focused on planting more trees in midtown. Especially in tree deserts, areas that are subject to extreme heat.
Karen Lebovitz is a board member with MidtownMemphis.org, formally the Midtown Memphis Development Corporation. MidtownMemphis.org is a 501(c)(3) non-profit group with a mission to promote economic development, cultural activities, recreational choices, and historical integrity of Midtown Memphis. MidtownMemphis.org works with local government and neighborhood associations to support the beautification of Midtown streetscapes, infrastructure, safety, and amenities.