Handy Park Design Challenge
Handy Park sends mixed messages about what is public and private space. Its associations with Beale Street are unclear. The Entrance from Beale, while attractive and durable, blocks views to the Statue of W.C. Handy and creates the feeling that the area is not public, or requires a ticket. The current block perimeter allows more views into a typically empty, unused space from Peabody Place, Handy Circle, B.B. King than those permitted by the entrance on Beale. The Stage and its fixed seating appear desolate. The park needs to be populated to feel welcoming, which only happens a few times a year. The park perimeter and stage structure are focused inward, and turn their backs on the surrounding streets, giving an uneasy experience to passersby.
The proposed strategies encourage a more vibrant and welcoming Block and create a flexible space for organizing events and opportunities for revenue generation. First, we recommend graphic Stretched Billboard that defines public and semi-public spaces within the block of Handy Park, and that functions as a welcoming gateway to Beale Street. Second, we propose the removal of the current entrance structure to extend the space of Beale Street - with the new graphics functioning as a social media backdrop. The last strategy provides a business plan for the park’s operation: We suggest converting the stage, risers and lawn into an event space called W. C. Handy Gateway and Garden. The re-imaged event-space operates like a courtyard or beer garden, will have a vibrant ‘everyday’ life as a watering hole that can be easily converted into an outdoor performance venue, or a VIP event center. For example, events like the International Blues Challenge could solicit proposals from blues bands from around the world to come and play in Handy Park all year.