Cooper-Young Featured in Top 10 'Great Neighborhoods' List

By Sarah Baker

Cooper-Young has been named as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2012 under the American Planning Association’s Great Places in America program, noted for its revitalization, character and historic architecture.

Bound by Central Avenue on the north, East Parkway on the east, Southern Avenue on the south, and McLean Boulevard on the West, the dense, 1.058-square-mile enclave boasts some 1,700 houses and roughly 200 homegrown businesses. Still up and coming, Cooper-Young is offbeat, artsy, diverse and close to Downtown Memphis.

“I’ve lived in Cooper-Young for more than 30 years, and I’ve seen it develop into a bustling, vibrant neighborhood with a farmers market, well-used bike lanes, an active community association, a popular annual street festival, and many of my favorite restaurants in the city,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said in a written statement.

“They’ve also done a great job of retaining the existing building stock, thereby staying true to the history and the culture of the neighborhood.”

The list highlights the role planning plays in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs. APA singled out Midtown’s Cooper-Young for its lively business and entertainment district and active and engaged residents who’ve spent decades redeveloping the neighborhood.

“A neighborhood of hard working Americans, Cooper Young doesn’t put on any airs,” said APA CEO Paul Farmer. “Even as reinvestment transforms its commercial corridor into one of the city’s top entertainment venues and residences continue to be rehabbed, the neighborhood remains true to itself.”

The area has cycled from its 19th century roots to 1970s crime and neglect to its present-day status as one of the largest historic districts in the Southeast, a magnet of all ages and walks of life. All thanks to individuals and organizations that wouldn’t settle for sub-par quality in their tiny town within the bustling Bluff City.

The community attracts more than 50,000 tourists and locals each week, and generates $2 million in sales tax annually. Cooper-Young’s annual September street festival, which just celebrated its 25th year, draws 120,000 in its 10 hours of operation, making it the largest single-day event in the city.

Added to the National Register in 1989, Cooper-Young Historic District includes two separately listed landmarks – the Captain Harris House, an 1898 Queen Anne structure, and Peabody Elementary School, a 1909 Beaux Arts building. Design guidelines took effect in 2000 to preserve the neighborhood’s historical integrity.

For more on the more-than-a-century-revitalization the area has seen, see Saturday, Sept. 24’s edition of The Memphis News, entitled, “Midtown Utopia.” The story is also available online at

The nine other APA 2012 Great Neighborhoods are: Garden District, Baton Rouge, La; Lower Highlands and Historic Downtown, Fall River, Mass.; Fells Point, Baltimore, Md.; Heritage Hill, Grand Rapids, MI; Downtown Salisbury, Salisbury, NC; Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia; Fairmont--Sugar House, Salt Lake City; Beacon Hill, Seattle; and Downtown Walla Walla, Walla Walla, Wash.

This year’s Great Places in America are being celebrated as part of APA’s National Community Planning Month during October.