Robertson Jumps Into Role Promoting Downtown Memphis

Friday, February 15, 2008, Vol. 123, No. 32

" ... A strong Downtown is a strong Memphis. So in a lot of ways this is about how I can continue on my path of making Memphis a better place in a bigger way."

- Eric Robertson
Name: Eric Robertson
Position: Chief administrative officer
Organization: Center City Commission
Basics: Robertson recently was hired to fill the Center City Commission's new chief administrative officer position.

When the Center City Commission decided recently to create a new position - chief administrative officer - the group ventured outside its own ranks in tapping the new hire. Eric Robertson, who stepped into the role Jan. 14, had spent almost the past decade in a similar job elsewhere in the city and was already an enthusiastic booster of Downtown Memphis.

In some ways, his selection was a natural choice for both sides. Robertson spent about eight years working with the LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corp., a group that's focused on building up, talking up and marketing the neighborhood known as Soulsville. In his new job, he'll basically be doing the same thing for Downtown.

Bettering Memphis

Robertson's job description is as broad as it is deep. Among his myriad responsibilities, he will support the programs of the CCC's five affiliated boards, coordinate the agendas of the group's staff and maintain productive working relationships with the public and all the agency's partners. He'll coordinate quarterly updates that are sent to the Memphis City Council, Shelby County Board of Commissioners and the CCC's own board of directors.

He'll also plan and coordinate visits to Downtown for local groups and out-of-town delegations. And even all that only scratches the surface. The CCC, after all, is currently managing some $3 billion worth of development projects Downtown.

"One of the things we like to say around here is that Downtown is the community that belongs to everyone, and a strong Downtown is a strong Memphis," Robertson said. "So in a lot of ways this is about how I can continue on my path of making Memphis a better place in a bigger way."

He's already got the quasi-political aspect of his job down and shows a reluctance to give props to his favorite Downtown hotspots and restaurants. He has to work on behalf of all of them, he explained, and doesn't want to risk alienating some of them by talking about any preferences.

Among the other ways his new job will keep him busy, Robertson will help out in screening, interviewing and hiring new CCC employees. He'll become even more of a fixture Downtown, since his job also entails acting as a liaison with area residents, businesses and various stakeholder groups.

Fulfilling potential

One of the people Robertson will be working most closely with is Jeff Sanford, president of the CCC.

"Eric has already made quite a name for himself in the community," Sanford said of the group's new addition, who remains affiliated with MPACT Memphis and who co-founded the New Path political action committee. "He's bright and talented, and I have no doubt that he will become a valuable member of our team."

The CCC had a busy year during 2007, a period that saw the completion of development projects Downtown with a combined investment total of more than $240 million. Projects currently under way include the completion of an updated Downtown Market Study and the construction of hundreds of new apartment and condominium units.

When he's away from the office, Robertson said he likes to unwind in the same part of town that's now the focus of his day job. He's also a season ticket holder at Hattiloo Theatre, the black repertory theater on Marshall Avenue.

"I'm very excited about the things I'm learning and in particular the things that we do," Robertson said about the CCC. "And what also makes me very excited is the potential we have to do more."