We’re kicking off our project, with your help, of identifying some egregious tears in our urban fabric and indifference to urban design.

The idea grows out of our post last week – and the outstanding examples submitted by readers – about the shoddy repair of the grate on Main Street by City of Memphis.  It consisted of the traditional Main Street answer of affixing plywood over the grate.

Last week's grate photo

Although nothing has happened to correct it since our post, we are told that the site will be repaired – and correctly – within days.

That said, there needs to be some loving care given to Main Street at other places where similar repair methods have been used.  In only one block of Main Street  – between Gayoso and Union – there are 13 boards used as “repairs” to grate problems.  People in that area of downtown swear that some of them have been in place for a decade, but we can personally attest to at least five years for most of them.

13 of these "repairs" between Gayoso and Union

Then, there are the pavers (that may not be an architecturally correct description) that are set between each grate on the sides of the trolley tracks.  They resemble shattering ice on a frozen lake.  They are crushed and cracked, and if you want to go on a needle in a haystack project downtown, try to find a single paver that remains in its original intact condition.

As we were taking the photograph, two City of Memphis pickup trucks drove down Main Street and it’s easy to see why so much damage has been done.

Another update: Madison Avenue continues to be closed from Main to Second Street as a result of the falling building wall.  It appears that little progress is being made in opening up the area.  Hope springs eternal.

Madison Avenue

We’ll follow up with photographs of some of the other examples of urban design insensitivities that were suggested by readers.  But, if you have a photograph that you’d like featured, please email it and any commentary you have about it to tjones@smartcityconsulting.com.

The first 10 years of the 21st century were a decade of benign neglect for Main Street, and with the changes in leadership in the mayor’s office and in our downtown development agency, there is a new interest in doing what it takes to create a quality downtown and an attractive Main Street.

With this project, we hope to help as eyes on the street.

If you have a suggested name for this project, we’d appreciate the suggestions.