VOL. 131 | NO. 228 | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
City’s Bicentennial in 2019 Prompts Memphis 3.0 Plan to Map Future
By Bill Dries
The city of Memphis turns 200 years old in 2019. And the city’s bicentennial is the target date for the roll out of a comprehensive city plan the administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is calling Memphis 3.0.
Beyond the specifics of development plans and goals for 14 planning districts within the city is a larger goal by the administration that Memphis does “not simply drift into its third century,” according to a Power Point presentation reporters saw last week at City Hall. “It will control its own destiny and begin now to do it.”
Up to the May 23, 2019, debut, the administration is gathering input from citizens starting with a set of “kick-off rallies” from just after Thanksgiving through Dec.10, starting Nov. 28 at Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser.
Once the plan is completed, it will go to the Memphis City Council in November 2018 for what amounts to a ratification.
The plan is not binding on future administrations or councils and it does not guarantee funding for each and every aspect. It will also be reviewed at regular intervals for updating.
“We can’t control the future,” said city Comprehensive Planning Administrator Ashley Cash. “But just ensuring that it’s equitable and fair and meets the needs of the people and making sure the people are holding our future leaders accountable … that’s the best we can hope for.”
The 14 planning districts are areas where input will be gathered from citizens about what they want to see in that particular area. Community development corporations and other organizations will be part of the planning process.
“There won’t be a sort of stand-alone budget,” said John Zeanah, deputy director of the city-county Office of Planning and Development. “I think anything that we do is going to consider what are all of the funding sources that are possible to be able to execute the project. It requires a little bit of flexibility.”
The process also will not seek to stop existing projects underway to wait for the development of the larger plan.
“Our approach is that we don’t necessarily want to pause any project that’s underway as a result of this,” Zeanah said. “I think that would be foolish.”
The concern about rents, commercial and residential, with new development in cities often leads critics to say such new development amounts to gentrification.
“When we look at Memphis and the projects and initiatives we have taken on over the last 20 years, gentrification is something that we haven’t truly seen in this community,” said city Housing and Community Development director Paul Young. “We haven’t truly seen the community transition from being an area where people can afford to live and it skyrockets such that people can no longer live there.”
Young said the city is prepared to not only use its federal grant dollars but also its ability to cap rents to ensure affordable housing in some areas.
When ground was broken for the South Main Artspace Lofts in September, which includes public funding, developers announced it would include a 15-year cap on rental rates ranging from $550 a month to $850 a month depending on income level and unit size.
New apartment units Downtown rent for an average of more than $1,200 a month.
“We are now in a point where a lot of initiatives are taking hold. Growth is beginning to happen in key areas like South City, like Uptown, Binghampton,” Young said. “What we attempt to do in those areas is invest in affordable housing … as we plan for our community we want to know where should we be making investment, utilizing our federal funds, which essentially restricts rents at a certain cap so that affordable housing is maintained in that community.”