Broad Avenue Water Tower Pavilion

Binghampton Development Corporation/Historic Broad Avenue Art Alliance

Funding Received: 2013
Memphis, TN
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 10, 2013

Broad Ave Night Market; photo by Amanda Hill

Broad Avenue is focused on various components of creative placemaking, including venues and programming. To maximize the return of our focus on programing, we recognized the need to build capability of the street to support increased visitors. Our efforts this summer specifically focused on working with the businesses and stakeholders along the avenue to collaborate around programming and increase foot traffic on Broad. The summer closed with our biggest event yet: a partnership with the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team developed the concept of the Broad Avenue Night Market. The Night Market was an evening market featuring artists, farmers, food vendors, music and dance. The market activated a vacant lot and will run in the same location monthly through October. The Broad Avenue Night Market was the third test concept executed this summer to create capacity. We also hosted an artist demonstration day and an avenue-wide scavenger hunt in June and July. The goal of these test events was to see what programming and placemaking worked best among the business owners and created buzz within the community.

The market attracted 1000 people on a Thursday evening to Broad Avenue Arts District; this was a first for the avenue in terms of weekday foot traffic—most events occur on Friday nights or Saturdays. Not only was the vacant lot turned into a vibrant marketplace, the entire commercial corridor was also bustling with activity and commerce, making Broad Avenue Night Market a great example of successful collaboration in Memphis. The market was launched and organized in partnership with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team. (Broad Avenue is one of the city’s targeted commercial corridors.) The partnership brought new energy and resources to programming. In addition, all performing arts programs that take place are funded by an Arts Build Communities grant, a program funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and administered in cooperation with the Tennessee Arts Commission and ArtsMemphis.

Broad Avenue Arts District’s summer programming has received great press and attention recently. Not only have the media and public been excited about our activity, but also businesses on Broad Avenue are seeing increased foot traffic and having record sales on event days. In addition to increased success with the programming, one new business opened this past month. Wiseacre Brewery is now anchoring the east side of our district. We are excited to have our own brewery in the district as it further strengthens our efforts as an urban magnet, adding the production aspect. Plus, the beer is great!

This past month has been focused on evaluation, specifically the question of how we can ensure that we are engaging our immediate community. Broad Avenue Arts Districts sits in the distressed, underserved neighborhood of Binghampton, home to a diverse and tight knit community. A goal and struggle of Broad Avenue is not only to grow as a commercial corridor, but also include the surrounding community in our growth and economic development. We held focus groups in the neighborhood for customer research on the Night Market concept to learn what residents wanted out of a market, how they felt about Broad Avenue, and what type of events the residents wanted in their neighborhood. The residents were excited about increased activity in the area but stressed wanting to have local residents involved more in the programming. With this knowledge, we have worked to offer bilingual promotion and recruitment of resident artists, musicians and food vendors.

This exercise in deepening our connection with the neighborhood proved very valuable as we continue to plan community-based programming. We also have worked with the businesses on Broad to assess the summer programming to learn what they see as replicable for the future.

Our final evaluation was internal. As organizers, we wanted to learn what worked and what didn’t. Some struggles we had related to running an event in a vacant lot rather than one of the businesses on Broad. We didn’t anticipate the cost of liability insurance and liquor. These costs affect the bottom line and will determine how best to organize a future market. As we build capacity on Broad in preparation for the Water Tower Depot, ongoing evaluation of our neighbors, businesses and ourselves will be a key part of our development.