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VOL. 132 | NO. 83 | Wednesday, April 26, 2017

RegionSmart Summit Seeks to Increase Economic Vitality in the Mid-South

By Patrick Lantrip

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More than 300 community leaders and officials will be on hand for the second annual RegionSmart Summit, which will be held Thursday, April 27, at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education.

Hosted by the Urban Land Institute and the Mid-South Mayor’s Council, the summit will explore the future of workforce development, transportation, and land use in the region through a series of speakers.


“Part of my job is to give folks a different perspective on their cities and communities,” Peter Kageyama told The Daily News in advance of his presentation. “This is why we go to events like this RegionSmart Summit.”

In his books, “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair between People and Their Places” and the follow up, “Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places,” Kageyama explores love and emotional engagement with places and why it’s a good thing for people to fall in love with their cities.

“When pets, plants to objects are loved, they thrive,” Kageyama said. “So too with cities. We can argue about the degree, but I think people realize there is at least some value to that. Yes, things have a cost, but they also have a value beyond the purely financial. I’m trying to get people to recognize and be able to discuss that value.”

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, an internationally recognized, award-winning planner with over 30 years of experience, will speak on the importance of regional planning.

“For a region like Memphis, you can’t compete alone – you have to compete as a region,” Silver said. “Wherever I have worked or practiced it’s been a challenge because people will talk about regional planning, but it’s very difficult to execute.”

At RegionSmart, Silver will talk about emerging issues that all municipalities in the Greater Memphis area need to be aware of, particularly the implications of the region’s changing demographics and economic competitiveness and why it’s important to compete as a region.


Silver will also discuss Memphis’ role within its larger “megaregion” and what the city and surrounding areas can do to establish an identity as a vibrant sub-region within in that market.

Regional transportation, on the other hand, will be the theme for former Seattle Children’s Hospital director of transportation, Paulo Nunes-Ueno.

“A healthy transportation system is really working on all cylinders – it’s safe, it’s providing alternatives for people who can’t or won’t drive, and it’s also managing the impacts of car travel from the parking to the safety aspects,” Nunes-Ueno said. “But that takes a lot of work, and the environment that you guys are dealing with is super-complex because you’ve got several cities and three different states.”

During his presentation, Nunes-Ueno wants to open up a discussion about the city’s vital signs in terms of transportation.

“I think the work right now ought to be getting the region as a whole to agree on what the metrics that describe a healthy transportation system are,” Nunes-Ueno said.

Nunes-Ueno said one of the most important metrics to establish is a way to measure mode share, which is a breakdown of the percentage of travelers using a particular type of transportation in a given area.


Additionally, Georgia Tech professor Ellen Dunham-Jones will focus her presentation on the retrofitting of suburbia.

“I maintain the world’s only database that I know of that tracks dead big boxes, dead malls, strip malls,” Dunham-Jones said. “A lot of post-war suburban property types are aging. They’re underperforming, they have really high vacancies and they are creating a lot of challenges for the suburbs now that downtowns were facing 10 years ago.”

Dunham-Jones and her partner, June Williamson, addressed this issue in their 2009 book, “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs,” which documents successful retrofits of vacant big-box stores, dead malls, aging office parks and other properties into more sustainable places.

“These underperforming properties, I think, provide opportunities for these suburbs to address the 21st century challenges they were never designed for,” she said. “Issues of sustainability were not on anybody’s mind in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.”

A full list of speakers can be found at regionsmart.org, as well as registration information.

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