“Memphis must focus more on redeveloping the city’s core through ‘infill’ projects, rather than pursuing annexation. A report completed for the city last year goes further: It said stretching the city’s boundaries has had ‘disastrous’ results for Memphis …” – Commercial Appeal, April 14, 2013
As Tom Charlier articulated in this article, over the last fifty years the City of Memphis has dramatically expanded its physical footprint by appropriating land farther and farther away from the city’s traditional urban core. The problem with this reality is that we have done so while at the same time our population has dwindled.
As a result, declining public resources are spread too thin over an impossibly vast stretch of territory that results in the deterioration of parks, streets, public facilities and other crucial infrastructure to a point where they often become dirty, inefficient, and even dangerous.
The result is increasingly troublesome – local government is obligated to serve a bigger and bigger area while fewer and fewer people are left to foot the bill. This downward spiral means that even if taxes are raised, there is less and less money to invest in critical economic and community development projects that would make our citizens healthier, better educated, and more financially stable.
Simply put, density is destiny. The city of Detroit’s financial woes are well known, but even this troubled metropolis has 100,000 more people covering a territory half of Memphis’ size. This fact alone should be a call to all Memphians, and especially our local leaders, to take bold and immediate steps to revitalize and repopulate our older core city neighborhoods.
Creating strong, safe, livable neighborhoods that have the resources and amenities families and young professionals need should be a high priority of the citizens of Memphis and our elected officials – particularly as the city and county debate next year’s budget.
The Crosstown Development Project has the potential to transform one of the most historic and central locations in Memphis. The renovation of the iconic Sears Crosstown building, located between Midtown and Downtown, will be a $175 million project that will create 1,000 jobs during construction and house over 1,300 permanent jobs upon completion. Of these, 875 will be newly created jobs that will add $37 million in wages into our economy every year.
The building itself will be home to health clinics, wellness facilities, a free public high school with a strong arts and sciences curriculum, and numerous creative resources for the public. It will also house 240 apartments – 20% of which will be dedicated to low-income individuals – boosting the population of this deeply disinvested neighborhood by hundreds of residents.
The Crosstown Development Project wants to turn an abandoned, blighted structure into a vibrant village of health, education, and the arts that increases the area population, provides social services and programming, and creates hundreds of great jobs. They want to do it in precisely the kind of distressed core city neighborhood that suburban expansion has left neglected for decades. If the City of Memphis agrees to a $15 million investment – less than 10% of the total redevelopment cost – to address some crucial blight abatement, demolition and infrastructure needs, over $150 million in private capital stands ready to begin construction before the end of the year.
We appreciate what our local government has done to support our manufacturing and tourism sectors. But in light of the tens of millions of dollars the city has invested in multi-national corporations and tourist attractions over the last few years, is a local health and education project that would restore economic vibrancy to the heart of our city not most worthy of our attention and support?
It is an investment that will pay significant dividends, both social and economic, for decades to come. If you agree, join the Crosstown Collaborative today at CrosstownCollaborative.com. Let our local leaders know what kind of Memphis you want now.