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VOL. 131 | NO. 71 | Friday, April 8, 2016

Medical District Stakeholders: Neighborhood Full of Potential

By Andy Meek

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Some 2,500 new employees start jobs each year at employers in the Memphis Medical District, and about 1,300 new students each year start hitting the books at educational institutions there, too.

That’s according to Medical District Collaborative president Tommy Pacello, who says the 2.5-square-mile area between Midtown and Downtown that’s home to eight anchor institutions is full of untapped potential. So much so that his organization, which launched earlier this year, is leading a revitalization of the district that leans heavily on anchors like Regional One Health and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare to help in a buy local, live local and hire local push for the neighborhood.

Medical District Collaborative president Tommy Pacello says the 2.5-square-mile area between Midtown and Downtown is full of untapped potential.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Pacello explained some of what’s happening – and what’s happening next – to a packed house at the Brooks Museum of Art Thursday, April 7, as part of The Daily News’ regular speaker series. He keynoted the event, which also included a panel discussion with stakeholders including Dr. Kennard Brown, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center; incoming Methodist CEO Michael Ugwueke; and Mike Todd, Edge District president and owner of Premiere Contractors Inc.

“One way we think about this work is through an anchor strategy,” explained Pacello, who summarized what the collaborative is doing to unite the medical district anchors and improve the overall area by focusing on things like basic service delivery and connecting the campuses. “If you get the institutions and community working together on this, the whole thing begins to hum.”

Some fast facts about the district:

Panelists Tommy Pacello, Dr. Kennard Brown, Michael Ugwueke and Mike Todd

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

It’s bounded roughly by North Parkway on the north, Vance Avenue on the south, Danny Thomas Boulevard on the west and Cleveland Avenue on the east. But those are only loose boundaries and not officially defined, as the collaborative and its partners don’t see a bright line separating that part of the city from nearby areas that already are the subject of resources and attention.

Almost $4 billion in investment is under way around the medical district, per Pacello – underscoring how important it is to get the basics right, like attractive public spaces, adequate safety and security, branding and more.

The district also has 250 acres’ worth of parking – one more testament to the inherent development possibilities, seminar attendees were told.

By way of explaining one anchor’s motivations for being part of the collaborative’s work, Ugwueke explained how Methodist has more than $325 million in investments planned or under way between its Le Bonheur and Methodist University campuses in the area. That alone, he explained, shows how Methodist is invested in the effort, and that a great surrounding neighborhood can only benefit the existing residents and corporate tenants.

If you believe in the ultimate health of Midtown and Downtown, Todd chimed in, the area between them – a nexus of medical care, research and innovation – needs to also do well.

Pacello said his organization, meanwhile, as well as the stakeholders have other priorities like making sure there’s a focus on using local, minority-owned businesses. He said the collaborative has also just negotiated an agreement with an outside organization to help the group put together a maintenance crew, which frees Pacello’s group up to think creatively “on how, in small ways, we can start to impact the public spaces.”

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