VOL. 133 | NO. 22 | Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Building Memphis From the Core
When I delivered this year’s State of the City speech to the Kiwanis Club of Memphis at its meeting at the University Club, long planted at the corner of Lamar and Central, it would’ve been easy to think that the ground on which we stood had been part of Memphis from its very start.
It wasn’t. It, too, was annexed – way back in 1899.
It’s the story of Memphis – and to be sure, many cities. For decades, Memphis chased population growth by stretching its boundaries farther and farther eastward. That meant civic investments going outward, and not necessarily to our core and already established neighborhoods.
Those days are over.
As we approach the start of our third century with next year’s bicentennial, our administration is focusing our energy on our core and our neighborhoods to drive economic development and population growth from within.
Or, as I said in the theme of that State of the City speech: We will build up, not out.
Fortunately, the wind is at our back. While population loss remains our No. 1 challenge, the rate has slowed in recent years. And of the $11 billion in recent, current and future development in greater Memphis, it’s worth pointing out that the majority of it is taking place inside the city limits.
My job is to enable more of this, all across our city.
That’s why we’re doing things like expanding the multifamily residential tax incentive, which will enable us to increase density in our core. Hoping to expand on the amazing growth on Downtown’s South End, we expanded the zone for this incentive to Midtown, and already have some projects in the pipeline. Our next step is to expand this all across our city.
It’s not often that sewers are in the news, but they were recently, when we decided to no longer allow sewer taps to new developments outside city limits in unincorporated Shelby County. For too long, the city of Memphis helped subsidize its own population loss with this policy. I’ve put an end to it.
And after decades of sprawl, our administration is taking Memphis in a different direction. We’re embracing the right-sizing of our city through de-annexation. Sure, the process is messy – but think of it from 30,000 feet: Our administration is the first ever in Memphis to actually propose de-annexation, and we may be the only one in the nation to do so.
We’re continuing to prioritize public safety, rebuilding the police force toward where it was when we had our recent lowest violent crime rate. We’re reinvesting in our infrastructure, paving double the streets than we did just four years ago. And we’re reinvesting in Memphians, too: In what could change the game for our children’s future, we’re getting closer to identifying a sustainable funding source for universal prekindergarten.
Make no mistake about it: Our administration is doubling down on our core and our neighborhoods. Our administration is reinvesting in Memphis.
We’re a city that’s changed the world. As we use these principles to guide our third century, we’ll continue to change it for years and years to come.
Jim Strickland is mayor of the city of Memphis.