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VOL. 10 | NO. 44 | Saturday, October 28, 2017

Editorial: Finding Memphis In An Era of Big Changes

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Day by day it seems we see new evidence of change in a city that many of us believe doesn’t change much and even then changes very slowly and gradually.

The face of the change tends to be bricks and mortar like those underway in Overton Park’s institutions – the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the Memphis College of Art. Or the Gibson guitar plant planning to leave a key piece of real estate south of Beale Street.

But for some time now Memphis has been moving toward a profound transition that is more than what you can see and touch.

Some of it is a function of the passage of enough time – inertia. But much of it is a desire, even a restlessness, by Memphians – transplants, native born, millennials, baby boomers, new arrivals and lifers – to see the city move in a direction of our own choosing and possibly with a consensus.

The direction that change takes and its goal is far from a consensus at the moment. And it tends to be a set of circumstances.

When you look at how conservative Memphis was when what became the Memphis College of Art moved from Victorian Village to Overton Park at the end of the 1950s you have an idea about what is possible.

Working from the Lee House on Adams Avenue starting at the depths of the Great Depression, this institution was influencing creativity not only in Memphis but in the larger region. By the end of World War II, its influence was becoming more obvious and spreading beyond the region with a faculty and students who defined the Memphis brand of creativity in a way that invited the world in.

We are in an era of coordinated large-scale changes from the riverfront to the Pinch and the Amazon HQ2 bid that make past economic development goals like the $250-million FedExForum look small by comparison. The Gateway project for the nine-block area between the Pyramid and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus is $1 billion in capital spending by the hospital. That doesn’t count another $7 billion or so in programming, research and a higher education mission. Amazon HQ2 is a $5-billion undertaking with the promise of 50,000 new jobs.

These leaps come with big hopes and big fears because it is natural to look down when you start to climb higher.

We will try and at times we will fail. It will inevitably inform what happens next but it won’t stop it from happening.

The question is will you be able to find Memphis in what comes next? What hews pretty closely to the plan and what departs from the plans and becomes something no one could have foreseen at the beginning. Will you be able to find our best intentions and the better part of our character in what becomes the new landscape for our common hopes?

That, friends, is entirely in our hands.

PROPERTY SALES 49 123 2,388
MORTGAGES 77 171 2,778
BUILDING PERMITS 174 284 6,352
BANKRUPTCIES 32 72 1,859