When I was growing up in Memphis in the 1960s, the Feds — and state and local officials — unveiled plans to build a short stretch of Interstate 40 to connect East Memphis with downtown.
The proposed corridor of concrete would run through Overton Park, a 342-acre green space of old forest and open fields in the heart of the city. The park features a zoo, an art museum and a handsome bandshell – where young Elvis Presley once played.
After the path had been determined and many in-the-way houses had been razed, a small advocacy group, Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, was able to face down “progress,” thwart construction and save the park. Today ghostly vestiges of that gap still exist.
Other cities across America have not been so longviewed or lucky. Neighborhoods have been knocked around and cities rent asunder to make way for innercity highways.