VOL. 133 | NO. 85 | Friday, April 27, 2018
RegionSmart Summit Brings Out Best of the Mid-South
By Patrick Lantrip
(Memphis Daily News/Patrick Lantrip)
Though the Mid-South is made up of a many different neighborhoods, cities and even states, many of the ties that bind the region together were on display at the third annual RegionSmart Summit.
The Thursday, April 26 conference held at the Halloran Center for the Performing Arts & Education, featured a convening of the are area’s mayors followed by a trio of national speakers all with the intent to strengthen the intra-regional dialogue.
While the themes varied from connectivity, to smart development, to the need for common spaces, one of the most prevalent was the importance of the riverfront.
Although there have been a multitude of different riverfront development plans that have promised to be transformative, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said that he feels confident in the newly reorganized Memphis River Parks Partnership’s latest reimaging Fourth Bluff will be a success.
“The reason it could happen in my mind is the TDZ we have Downtown, which allows us to keep the same portion of the sales tax that was used to redo the Pyramid, the convention center and work in the Pinch,” Strickland said. “The money coming in is exceeding those obligations, so we asked the state if we could use that money on the riverfront itself.”
He said that since this is a resource the city did not have access to before, it makes the riverfront redevelopment plans more realistic.
“Because we can’t take money that we’ve used for police, fire and paving roads and shift that to an aquarium downtown,” Strickland said. “We’ve got to have this extra money, so hopefully the soon state to approve that.”
One of the title speakers, Lynn Ross, founder and principal of Spirit for Change Consulting LLC said that investing in projects like the Fourth Bluff are vital for the region’s growth and success.
“The Fourth Bluff project reconceives the historic Cossitt Library, the river launch trail, Memphis Park and Mississippi River Park into places that all Memphians and all in this region can come together and appreciate nature and appreciate one another,” Ross said. “These are going to be places that bring people back together to reestablish trust and reestablish that empathy.”
Ross said that areas like the riverfront, which she referred to as civic commons, are at their best when they are planned and experienced in a seamless manner.
“We’ve got to think multi-sector, think multidepartment, and we have to really figure out that collaboration, not just within cities, but across regions as well,” Ross said. “We also have to create spaces that bring people of all backgrounds together.”
She said that since investing in these spaces creates value, the growth needs to be intentional.
“We don’t want to encourage green gentrification,” She said. “We want the existing residents and business to benefit from the creation of that value, but we also know we need to attract new investment. So we have to be very thoughtful and intentional about the way we do that.”