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STREETSEEN  |  Dennis Lynch

Photo by Steve Roberts

Dennis Lynch: Community Activist Championing the Greensward

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

As a young boy growing up in a small town outside of Albany, New York, Dennis Lynch recalls that he always “wanted to know where roads went.”

“As early as fourth grade, I can remember being fascinated by maps,” said Lynch. “I’d look at images in books of different areas and draw (not trace) the mapped areas, trying to gain a better understanding of maps and their legends.”

As the years went by, Lynch graduated from high school in Grand Haven, Michigan, and his interest in travel expanded into a curiosity about outer space.

“The US landed on the moon in 1969 while I was a sophomore in college,” said Lynch. “I was studying aeronautical engineering at MIT, and I actually wanted to be an astronaut — but I was too tall. I’m 6 foot 3 inches and the height limit at that time was 6 feet.”

The summer after Lynch graduated from college, he hitchhiked around the country with a fraternity brother. “We had fun and met a lot of interesting people, but then I returned to Cambridge for my first professional job as an engineer, followed by graduate school at MIT and three years transportation planning for the Boston region. I had a great job helping to plan expansion of Boston’s transit system, and working within a great community input process.

Around that time, Fred Smith came to talk with students and recent MIT graduates about his new company, Federal Express. “As fate would have it, shortly thereafter I met a Federal Express sales manager at a transportation conference in DC who forwarded my resume, which got me invited to Memphis for an interview. I had a job offer by the time I had returned to Boston.”

Lynch explained that the job offer as an industrial engineer was intriguing, but what really tipped the scales in favor of moving to Memphis was something else transportation-related. He knew that a group of Memphis citizens had blocked an interstate that was going to be constructed right through Overton Park.

“I thought that Memphis must be a great place to live because the community had been willing to speak up for what it wanted — or in this case, what it didn’t want — overriding highway engineers and city planners,” said Lynch.

So it should come as no surprise that Lynch has since taken a role in addressing another traffic issue that is at odds with Overton Park — parking on The Greensward. Lynch, an engineer and environmentalist, is the local Sierra Club Chair and the Tennessee Chapter’s Transportation Chair. He is also a founding member of Memphis’ Pedestrian Advocacy Council and Co-Chair of the Memphis Transportation Advisory Committee of the Memphis Area Council for Citizen’s with Disabilities.

“The Sierra Club’s mission statement, which I proudly support, includes the phrase, ‘To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.’ Since my background is in transportation, I try to focus much of my personal efforts on transportation-related matters,” said Lynch. “With regard to Overton Park, I toured the area with Tina Sullivan, executive director of Overton Park Conservancy, along with two individuals in wheelchairs. The purpose was to look at shortcomings of access for individuals with disabilities.”

Ultimately, Lynch developed a list of issues that needed to be addressed, and expanded his comments to include other transit service concerns for people with disabilities (i.e., bus stops missing curb ramps for wheelchairs, jaywalking, and general suggestions to help drivers to be more aware of pedestrians).

As for the current issue with the Greensward, Lynch acknowledges the Memphis Zoo’s need for additional parking. However, he doesn’t agree that people should have to drive through Overton Park to get to the zoo. He has co-developed a plan with Fergus Nolan that would yield up to 2,500 spaces — “and does not take up even a square inch of The Greensward.”

Lynch described the plan saying, “Our maximum density plan proposes a solution to the traffic backups in the park, as well as on McLean. The plan is based on using the existing park entrance on North Parkway and a simple path to the parking lot (using mostly existing roadbeds adjacent to and within the zoo). One general rule of planning traffic flow is that you should go directly from your major road to your destination without impinging on some other facility.”

Lynch is confident that the proposed plan will offer benefits to zoo guests, as well as nearby local neighbors who can regain their on-street parking. The plan’s suggestion of taking payment after cars are parked could solve another traffic bottleneck in the zoo-entry problem.

In pursuing the next citizen-driven cause to protect Overton Park, Lynch concludes, “We freely admit that our map is rough and some refinement will be needed. But our plan clearly shows that the zoo’s needs can be handsomely met without taking away from Charles Kessler’s masterpiece. Overton Park deserves to be enjoyed by its many users, without fumes, noise and safety issues from traffic and loss of green space.” 

Lynch’s final statement about Overton Park and the plan he and Nolan developed is that, “There are many people from all over the city who value the park, and who have stood up for years, and in numerous ways, to protect the park — like Naomi Van Tol and her leadership of the campaign to protect the Old Forest. I am proud to have worked with many of them. We will continue to promote our new zoo parking plan to make sure it gets serious attention from the city and from the Zoo Parking Committee.”

STREETSEEN  |  Elizabeth Holliday

Photo by Steve Roberts

Elizabeth Holliday: Creating Enduring Style

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

With almost 20 years of design and pattern expertise, Elizabeth Holliday creates beautiful enduring style. Working from her home studio in Cooper Young, Holliday launched her business, DeNovo Style, by focusing on making couture coats.

“From pattern to finish, I love the process,” said Holliday. “I wear and try out all the styles, giving me a unique insight into the fit, the functionality and the aesthetics of each piece. Gorgeous fabrics and closures are carefully hand-picked for each style, then sewn with meticulous detail.”

Although Holliday gets much of her fabric directly from European mills in Italy and France, she has a deep conviction that everything in her line be made in America. She makes many pieces herself, with some construction assistance from a small sewing house in Los Angeles, as well as a handful of seamstresses sourced locally from the Greater Memphis area. Bolts of fabric are stacked several feet high in a storage room, while the walls of her studio are full of post-it notes sporting possible design ideas.

Holliday added, “Gorgeous imported fabrics from Italy, custom-made for me in rich spicy colors, highlight the collection this fall. The Italian wools are very textural. The cuts are flattering and the fabrics are dimensional and wonderful to the touch.”

For Holliday, it all starts with a design that pops into her head and becomes a pattern. Then she determines which fabric is best-suited for the design, often based on the fabric’s weight and drape. Alpaca is a regular fabric of choice for Holliday’s couture coats. And this year she has added a line of Japanese rainwear fabrics. “They look like crinkly nylon and are very lightweight,” says Holliday, “perfect for our Memphis weather.”

When asked how she got her start, Holliday said, “I’m a fabric addict. Three generations of women in my family have exhibited a strong creative streak. My maternal grandmother took my mother and my aunts to department stores to hone their sense of style. She would ask them to point out clothing they liked, then she would make patterns out of newspaper and recreate the clothing for them, custom-fitted.”

Holliday continued, “My mother taught me how to sew. One of the first things I made was a coat with a matching hat — for my dog.” By the time she was 16, Holliday had started using store-bought patterns to make clothes for herself, and continued doing so through high school and college.

“During my college years, I always had a sewing area in my various apartments,” recalled Holliday. “The turning point for me was when I met a girl from Paris, France who had studied fashion design. I would go to her apartment and pore over pattern drafting books, learning how to construct patterns from measurements. One day she asked me why, since I obviously loved fashion design, didn’t I go to design school.”

By that time, Holliday had already completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. So she headed to the West coast where she completed a two-year design program at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco. Upon graduation, Holliday learned her trade in a small design firm in San Francisco. She began as a “cutter” and was mentored by the owner for six years. It was there that Holliday says she learned not only what it takes to design a collection, but how to organize and run a business.

“Owning my own business is a dream come true. I like being able to set my own hours. But the main advantage is not having my creative limits defined by someone else,” explained Holliday.

This year will mark the fifth time that Holliday has participated in the River Arts Fest, scheduled to take place Oct. 27 - 29 in Downtown Memphis. With a motto of “Work. Travel. Play. Look amazing no matter where your day takes you,” it comes as no surprise that Holliday has been able to develop a strong local following.

To learn more about DeNovo Style, visit denovostyle.com.