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VOL. 132 | NO. 131 | Monday, July 3, 2017

Memphis 3.0 Effort Gets to Basic Facts

By Bill Dries

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ASHLEY CASH

Putting together the city’s first long-term comprehensive development plan since the 1980s is proving to be about covering a lot of the same material at public meetings.

Before a standing-room-only crowd Thursday, June 29, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Ashley Cash, the comprehensive planning administrator for the city, dutifully covered how the city is going about putting together the Memphis 3.0 plan that will debut in 2019. The emphasis is on letting those at the meeting know the city wants input from them and people they know. And the appeal can’t be made too often.

Added to that is some of the things they are learning along the way. Sometimes that is a basic conclusion like, “We know that we are not really growing.”

And just as often it is questions: “How are we supporting people to organize themselves?”

But New Tri-State Defender editor Bernal Smith, who co-hosted the Brooks forum, brought the process around to the basics as the city seeks a way to rollout the plan to mark its 200th year.

“White flight is a factor,” he said after lots of talk about developing plans for individual neighborhoods that will help them grow, retain existing homeowners and add new neighbors.

“We’ve had poor planning and as a result poor outcomes,” Smith said of white neighbors moving out as black neighbors move in. It’s been a perennial theme of Memphis real estate and development across decades, including Smith’s move as a child with his family from Westwood to Whitehaven in the 1980s.

He and his family were one of three black families on their street in Whitehaven and within a short period of time, the racial balance had reversed, as for-sale signs went up and there were only three white families left.

“We have to understand cultural trends,” Smith added. “That diversity dissipates quickly. We are segregated by race and economics.”

Cash had talked of “economic segregation” before Smith’s comments, citing 28 percent of the city’s population that lives in poverty by federal household income standards. Building wealth toward lowering that percentage includes passing on the value a family is able to build through home ownership.

But about half of the city rents.

That’s one of several basic governing facts of the city that Cash and others assembling the 3.0 plan are using at one end of a timeline that goes from current reality to consensus reality.

Smith’s comments toward an undeniable, long-standing trend hit a nerve in a room full of citizens, who for the most part wrote comments on cards submitted to the city team.

A North Memphis homeowner complained about a Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division facility currently being moved to her neighborhood.

Memphis Heritage executive director June West expressed concern over development and plans that are “going the opposite way” of where Memphis 3.0 may go by the time it is adopted.

Cash says some of the ideas and guidelines for short-term goals won’t be held until the 2019 debut. The effort will make a move toward “low-hanging fruit,” she said.

“That long-range plan comes with bite-sized steps,” Cash added. The city effort will move later this year into neighborhood and community groups formulating specific plans that in some cases will incorporate planning those communities have already done.

Cash said the city is likely to look at several neighborhoods and communities connected to each other as districts instead of trying to go from one small area to another in what amounts to a knitting together of the different plans.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 19 170
BUILDING PERMITS 28 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 25 98 716
BUSINESS LICENSES 4 26 302
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0