VOL. 115 | NO. 172 | Friday, October 12, 2001
Man of Memphis
Developing a dream
By SUE PEASE
The Daily News
For a reporter looking for information about real estate
development in Downtown Memphis, a good place to start is a call to John
Lawrence, Center City Commission director of planning.
If he doesnt have the information, he will probably know
whom to call.
The knowledge came because Lawrence, 30, has spent his
career working on projects for Memphis and its future.
Its a task he doesnt take lightly.
(Memphis) is all that I know.
The reason I got into this business is because of Memphis.
Everything Ive done up until this point in my career is because I was
interested in the future of Memphis and aggravated by the challenges that
existed, he said.
But, in November, he will head to Jackson, Miss., as the new
president of Jacksons equivalent to the CCC Downtown Jackson Partners.
Although leaving might be difficult for the Memphis native,
he is excited about the possibilities.
It is an opportunity to put together an organization, in
reality, to do what John Dudas did here 20 years ago, Lawrence said, spotlighting
the model Dudas, the CCCs first president, created for Downtown
Through his experience, he has seen successful
revitalization in Memphis and believes it can happen in any city.
During four years at the CCC, he met officials from other
cities and showed them how Memphis tackled Downtown renewal.
We spend a lot of time discussing what Memphis has done,
how theyve done it and how to get people to live Downtown.
And, I have always promised them that this could happen
anywhere, Lawrence said.
The position in Jackson will test his theory.
This is a chance to see if Im right or not.
For Lawrence, envisioning urban landscapes began early. He
graduated from the University of Memphis with a bachelors degree in geography
with a concentration in urban planning for business and economics.
He then received a master of science in business
administration with a concentration in real estate development.
His first experience in the field was a temporary position
in 1994 as a planner at Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development.
There he saw idealistic city plans being created, but also
the challenges of seeing those plans come to fruition.
What you have there is a lot of people with wonderful plans
and great ideas and no real mechanism to get them implemented, Lawrence said.
After the position with the city, he accepted a marketing
position at Trammell Crow Co. in 1995. He was first a market analyst and then
marketing representative for One Commerce Square.
Lawrence said he learned a tremendous amount at the company
how to make deals and make them quickly.
Those two organizations were at different ends of the
spectrum. Working for HCD was about civic pride and community development and
the real estate firm was about closing deals and making a profit.
While both jobs served their purpose, neither was a perfect
place for Lawrence.
But, then he saw the opportunity at the CCC in 1997.
It was a wonderful opportunity for me. This type of
position puts you in the middle, Lawrence said.
It is the best of both worlds.
You get to carry forward the citys vision for an area
but at the same time you get to deal with the movers and shakers to get things
done. That is a special position to be in.
While Lawrence sees Memphis story of Downtown
revitalization as a model for other cities, it was not the success that he
found most rewarding it was the journey.
He looks forward to taking that journey in a new city.
Jackson is not too far from home, where Lawrences
close-knit family and friends reside, not to mention where he holds season
tickets to the Memphis Grizzlies.
A three-hour drive isnt too far to come for a basketball
game, he added with a youthful grin.