VOL. 132 | NO. 62 | Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Rudd Says University Redirecting Neighborhood
By Bill Dries
The railroad tracks between Highland Avenue and Zach Curlin Drive have been a fact of life and a border of sorts for as long as there has been a University of Memphis – even before it was called the University of Memphis.
But university president David Rudd says the borders are changing for the campus and what lies beyond it.
“We don’t have the capacity to house the number of students we need to,” Rudd said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.”
Rudd counts 2,400 students who live on the campus in university residence halls – that is out of a student enrollment of 22,000 for an institution long known as a commuter school.
“But if you look at the neighborhood district, we’ve got another 3,000 in the neighborhood district now,” he said. “So we have more than doubled the students that I would tell you are arguably residential to the University of Memphis.”
That includes “The Nine at Memphis,” an apartment and condo building at 521 South Highland St. at Mynders, across from The Stratum apartments, that is currently leasing up.
The WKNO program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
With a tax increment finance – or TIF – district in the surrounding University Neighborhood District, Rudd said private residential and supporting retail development is coming online with some influence by the university.
“We’re not a part of the financing. What we have been a part of is discussing how to make it competitive and how to integrate,” Rudd said. “We’ve started the process of reaching out to create partnering with those facilities for academic programing. It’s a simple reality, the closer you live to the University of Memphis, the more likely you are to do well in class. The more likely you are to be retained. And the more likely you are to graduate.”
A residence hall on the south campus on Park Avenue is being talked about as well as an upgrade of married student housing there. Rudd said such projects are likely to be financed by real estate investment companies that specialize in student housing across the nation.
“It’s been the trend now for more than a decade,” he said of the private financing of such construction. “We are behind the curve.”
The university recently unveiled plans for a land pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks. It will connect the campus south of Southern Avenue – including a new student recreation center and a new indoor football practice facility – with what has traditionally been the heart of the campus north of the tracks.
“It is not a simple thing, but it is transformational,” Rudd said of the bridge and recently completed pedestrian and bicycle crossings with gates.
The land bridge will include an amphitheater on one side and a student plaza on the other.
“This connects what had been a fragmented campus to some degree,” he said. “It improves the overall residential feel of the campus and really does connect both portions of campus, make them accessible in an easy and meaningful way and that really is critical. What we have tried to do is develop a residential community that involves not just the University of Memphis but the University Neighborhood District.”
Rudd said the plans amount to five to six years of “continuous building” on campus. That includes a new $30 million music building Gov. Bill Haslam included state funding for in his recent budget proposal, with the university already raising the local match.
“The original site is most likely going to be next to the Holiday Inn, on that parking lot,” he said.
The music building will be a performance facility that has integrated classroom spaces in it and performance and practice space. It will also facilitate the university’s partnership with the Memphis Symphony, which will be housed in the music facility as well, Rudd said.