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VOL. 132 | NO. 78 | Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Shaffer Named Executive Director Of Rebranded BLDG Memphis

By Kate Simone

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John Paul Shaffer recently was named executive director of BLDG Memphis, the rebranded entity that brings the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis and Livable Mem-phis under a single organizational identity.
In his new role, Shaffer’s job is to guide the organization in its mission of supporting neighborhood revitalization through a network of organizations and individuals working in the community development space – which BLDG Memphis does primarily through organizational capacity building, community education and engagement, and public policy and advocacy – as well as to promote the new brand. 


Hometown: Memphis, but I lived away (New Orleans and the Los Angeles area) for almost 10 years during and after college. 

Experience: My main experience is in urban planning – I earned my masters at University of Memphis and worked in transportation planning at the Memphis MPO prior to joining BLDG Memphis as (then Livable Memphis) program director. I have an undergraduate degree in music, with a longtime interest in community issues, politics and the like. 

What talent do you wish you had? I really wish I could draw. 

Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? My family have been a profound influence on me, both personally and professionally. The life lessons and commitment to civic engagement I’ve learned from my grandparents and parents are a compass for me, and my wife, Tara, and our two daughters inspire me every day and keep me motivated! 

Why did the Community Development Council decided to rebrand as BLDG Memphis? The primary reason was the competition between our two previous brands – CD Council (the organization) focused on working with CDCs, and Livable Memphis (a program) did education and engagement. Livable Memphis’ prominence and visibility speaks to the value of the work we were doing; it also caused confusion about who we were and the breadth of our efforts. Our staff, board and partners really wanted to find a name that spoke to and unified the work, and that was relatable to our members and many varied constituencies.

What are your goals as the organization starts its new chapter? My initial goals are to raise the organization’s profile while continuing to deliver our programs with greater consistency. One thing I’m really excited about this year is that we are hiring our first full-time Capacity Building program manager to work with CDCs and emerging community development partners around the city.  

Tell us a little about the public policy initiatives BLDG Memphis wants to tackle this year. Some recent successes are working to get more mortgage lending under $50,000 for owner-occupied homes and adoption of the Memphis Complete Streets Project Delivery Manual. We’re currently supporting some new tools to help tackle blighted and abandoned properties by addressing the back taxes and fees that can pile up and keep CDCs and others from even considering acquiring them. We’re also in the early stages of exploring a dedicated funding source for community development efforts, such as a housing trust fund, that CDCs can access to expand their impact.

Why is it important for the public to be involved with the Memphis 3.0 planning process? For me, the community’s feeling invested and having a sense of ownership of a plan is the best way to ensure successful implementation. It has to reflect the character and needs of many diverse neighborhoods and guide how we spend what we have now and attract new investment from outside sources. The community’s support for the plan can ensure both happen.

What are the biggest barriers to increasing homeownership? Specifically, do we need more programs (e.g., down payment assistance) to help buyers and/or is there a lack of awareness of the programs that are already available? I’d like to see existing assistance programs funded at a higher level, opened to more potential buyers, and promoted more widely. Policies often drive who can access them, considering credit scores, personal financial history and the like. Some of our member organizations like The Works and Frayser CDC are doing great work on creative ways to address some of those issues. 

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? I don’t know that I’m there yet – I hope I’ve accomplished a number of smaller wins that support a larger vision for a stronger, healthier and more equitable city, but there’s still plenty left to do.  

What do you most enjoy about your work? I enjoy the people, the neighborhoods, and learning about what makes those places special to the people living there. Also, maps!

If you could give one piece of advice to young people, what would it be? I would say don’t be afraid to ask questions or to admit that you need help – that is something I myself try to remember on a regular basis. 


Paragon Bank has appointed Thom Holcomb as infrastructure administrator and Crews Wellford as mortgage consultant. Holcomb has been in the IT industry for more than 20 years, previously serving as systems administrator at Lokion and IT director at UADR Holdings. Wellford, who will provide support to the mortgage manager while also working to develop new business, graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in financial planning. 


June Hurt has joined The Shopping Center Group as property manager, serving as the day-to-day manager of retail centers throughout Tennessee. She previously served as property manager and leasing agent at Boyle Investment Co.

Zachary A. Webb has joined Allen & Hoshall’s Memphis office as an architectural intern. In his new role, Webb will assist with architectural design projects and 3-D modeling while he works towards licensure. Prior to joining Allen & Hoshall, he was employed at Precision Contractors and Meticulous Finishes.

Zakiyah Walker has been named the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis Youth of the Year and placed third in the statewide Youth of the Year competition. Walker is a senior at The Soulsville Charter School and has been attending the John Dustin Buckman Boys & Girls Clubs for the past three years. She plans to attend Howard University in the fall.

Lataysha Walker, a student at Power Center Academy High School, has been selected to join the National Society of High School Scholars. The NSHSS recognizes top scholars who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, scholarship and community commitment.

Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar has been named a winner of OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards as one of the Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in the United States. These award winners reflect the combined opinions of more than 10 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 25,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289