My friend Karen rattled off a list of “must-sees” for my visit here as we longed around my little studio on Monday. I didn’t get to all of them but there were two that ignited my curiosity. The Big River Crossing is a revitalized and repurposed pedestrian bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, and Crosstown Concourse is a “vertical urban village” created from the ruins of the old Sears distribution center. Both projects seemed interesting and unique, so they made my “to do” list.
I never knew that old building off Watkins was a Sears distribution center. I vaguely remember someone telling me it was a Sears building many years ago, but I’m not sure I believed they knew which building I was asking about because it looked nothing like a Sears store. I ran by it on long marathon training runs and wondered if it was a factory of some sort. The building was brick and massive with many broken windows. I really thought it looked like an old hospital with its parking garage and what I imagined to be many rooms. I assumed one day it would be torn down to make way for something shinier.
Large photos of the decaying distribution center line the hallways of this multi-use building. It was a mess inside, and I loved imagining walking through the rubble. But I love walking through this renovation even better. It is brand-spanking new as it opened just recently. I’ll let you read the details in this article, but I love the sounds of voices ringing throughout the wide open spaces. Much of the interior was cleaned up but not repaired, providing a glimpse into what was amid what’s new.
I had the same thoughts at The Big River Crossing on my run this morning. A beautiful corridor sits inside an old railroad bridge that crosses the Mighty Mississippi. One of four bridges, the walkway fades into the noise of two railroad bridges and Interstate 55. Railroad cars painted with graffiti fly by while the city of Memphis looms on the horizon on the other side. Midway a sign designates the state line between Tennessee and Arkansas. Clean steel butts up against rusted supports for the old bridge. Like Crosstown Concourse, it is the juxtaposition of old vs. new that provides interest.
I love the imagination and the resourcefulness of this new generation. My generation preferred new and shiny as we fled the cities and built up suburbia. We totally missed the raw beauty of decay and the durability of materials used so long ago. This generation likes to recycle, repurpose and revitalize. This tradition seems to have taken hold in Memphis. And as I look around, there is so much more that can be renewed. I can’t wait to see that transformation, too.