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    Planning Continues for Broad, Binghampton

    Bill Dries - The Daily News -

    As after-school traffic made its way north and south on Tillman Street last week, a crossing guard whistled children across one of the narrow streets by Lester Community Center. The traffic was mostly cars, but the occasional bicycle from the nearby western terminus of the Shelby Farms Greenline whizzed by as well.

    And inside the community center, children still in school uniforms mingled briefly before going one way as adults headed for a meeting room with maps on the wall. A few of the children looked through the doorway at the adults clustered around three maps before heading for other rooms.

    The maps showed the latest design work on the Broad Street connector to Overton Park for bicyclists and pedestrians. Work begins on one part this fall with a goal of completing it sometime next year.

    Meanwhile, August has seen movement on other fronts in Binghampton.

    Robert Montague, director of the Binghampton Community Development Corp., is reviewing a nine-year effort he and others have undertaken in the same area. It is an effort heavily involved in housing blight and redeveloping or developing new affordable housing units for an old neighborhood.

    The effort along with similar ones in Frayser recently got a boost with a $225,000 federal grant through the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program. It’s a planning grant with the nonprofit Community LIFT Corp. overseeing its administration in both communities.

    “We feel like there’s been a great deal of progress over the last decade or so here,” Montague said. “I think it’s a good time to reassess where we are and what we can do broader or differently to be more effective. It’s a good time for a new look.”

    Tillman is the connector between the western end of the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Broad Avenue Arts district where what are now homemade bike lanes to connect to Overton Park and its trails.

    The stretch of Tillman that included the community center was one of the three maps. The other two were the arts district and a section further west where Broad merges into Sam Cooper Boulevard.

    “Each one of these wall maps represents a different kind of challenge,” said Sarah Newstok, program manager of Livable Memphis, the nonprofit organization behind the connector as a concept. “One is a commercial arts district. The other is really at the intersection of Tillman and Sam Cooper and Broad. … There’s a whole other set of challenges on Tillman. There’s a number of driveway entrances and wider curb cuts for cars.”

    Work should start this fall on a pedestrian and bicycle crossing at East Parkway and Sam Cooper Boulevard with a state grant worked on by Livable Memphis and the Overton Park Conservancy.

    “This is going to happen, but there’s still a funding gap we’re trying to address,” said Elizabeth Saba, Livable Memphis program coordinator, of the other parts of the connector.

    The work on the western end of the connector is the first part of standardizing the bike lane and curb parking lines a group of urban planners put down earlier in one of several bold steps.

    “We knew we couldn’t touch the center line,” said Newstok, who was one of the urban planners who participated in what some planners called “tactical urbanism” and others call “guerilla urbanism.”

    The design work by Fuss & O’Neill consulting engineers being reviewed this month is another layer of smoothing out some of the transitions in the streetscape for the combination of cars, bicycles and those on foot in all three of the parts of the same area.

    The technical assistance Montague will be looking for deals with how to more effectively tie together residential, commercial and the roads that connect them.

    “How to address blight and how to engage the community and how to develop the commercial offerings on the arteries are key quality of life aspects for any homeowner, whether or not they are directly touched by the project,” he said.

    That means extending the reach to an area north of Summer Avenue to Jackson Avenue between Scott Street and Highland Avenue known as The Heights.

    “It’s an area that’s had very little support yet has significant blight issues,” Montague said. “I’m hoping that one of the big outcomes of the grant will be to spread the community development work that’s going on in the historic Binghampton area to the north and continue the great momentum that’s going on on Broad.”