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VOL. 115 | NO. 172 | Friday, October 12, 2001

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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 revitalization.

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.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 38 20,670
MORTGAGES 0 45 23,790
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 24 3,071
BUILDING PERMITS 0 187 42,781
BANKRUPTCIES 0 57 13,237
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 23 6,645
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 30 7,819
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 27 4,670