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LIVABLE MEMPHIS

Spring 2014

Promoting Healthy Growth in the Memphis Region

THRIVE T H R I V E is the newsletter of Livable Memphis, a program of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. Representing over 125 neighborhoods from across the greater Memphis region, Livable Memphis supports the development and redevelopment of healthy, vibrant, and economically sustainable communities. We do this by educating community members, promoting public policies that mitigate urban sprawl and direct investment to existing neighborhoods; and advocating for public and active transportation options that are safe, user-friendly, and accessible to all residents.

Memphis Sidewalks Finally Getting Fixed

By: Aubrey DeVine, LM Intern

As of January 14, 2014, the City of Memphis renewed their commitment to enforce sidewalk maintenance. Did you know that maintaining sidewalks is the responsibility of private property owners, as stated by Memphis City Ordinance? The City of Memphis will begin to address the hundreds of backlog sidewalk requests in order to notify property owners of their responsibility to make necessary improvements. Walkable communities are safe and promote healthy lifestyles, prosperity, and sustainability. Every year, there are 300-400 pedestrian injuries resulting in 10-20 deaths in Memphis. Many of these injuries involve children and would be preventable if sidewalks were well maintained and provided a safe alternative to walking in the roadway. In 2012, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s ‘F as in Fat’ report estimated Tennessee will have a 63.4% obesity rate by 2030 making it one of the most obese states in the country. Our projected obesity rates will add $3.6 billion in medical costs per year. Walking is the easiest and most efficient way for people to get their daily exercise and reduce obesity rates, but it is a difficult task without safe sidewalks. A large portion of the population also relies on sidewalks as their Problematic broken sidewalks and primary mode of transportation, including children, the elderly, people intersections without curb ramps with disabilities, transit users, and those with low incomes. It is important that we provide safe sidewalks for people to use throughout their daily routines. Improved sidewalks will help increase safety, promote exercise, and give pedestrians access to all parts of the city. (continued on page 6) HOW WE GOT STARTED: In 2005, a diverse group of community developers, environmentalists, transportation activists, financial institutions, and philanthropic foundations convened to explore a community wide response to the effects of sprawl. They shared the common goal of supporting equitable and efficient growth in Shelby County and the greater Memphis region. Livable Memphis was created as an initiative of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. Its goals include: building a broad base of support, researching patterns of growth expenditures, providing education on issues that affect community vitality, and offering a grassroots input into policy decisions.

1548 Poplar Avenue Memphis TN 38104

www.livablememphis.org 1

(901) 725-8370


LIVABLE MEMPHIS

Spring 2014

Promoting Healthy Growth in the Memphis Region Dear Thrive readers: The cover story this month is about Livable Memphis’ involvement in the new city of Memphis sidewalk program which was put into effect in January of this year. The city is now enforcing the repair of property sidewalks, and we are privileged to be playing an important role in both the planning and community engagement parts of this effort. Improved sidewalks can benefit the community in the areas of health, transportation, and prosperity, among others. Livable Memphis fully supports the city in this endeavor, and has created a Walkability Toolkit for the public to access for knowledge in the repair process. Even more relevant to the mission of our organization is the ability of these investments to ignite neighborhood revitalization or accelerate existing redevelopment efforts. Improved sidewalks allow people to easily and safely access all parts of the city. The spring 2014 Newsletter also includes the introduction of Livable Memphis’ new Creative Placemaker, Ellen Roberds, our new Program Director, John Paul Shaffer, a review on the movie premiere of A Fierce Green Fire in February, and a personal account of last fall’s South MEMFix: Mississippi/Walker by our intern Courtney Mcneal. Please also check out the upcoming Livable Memphis events on page 4. Our policy and advocacy successes are adding up as well. On the Complete Streets front, we’re moving into phase two in partnership with the city and other stakeholders: the development of a Design Guide that will ensure the newly adopted local policy is successfully implemented. After two years of work, we are pleased to report that our updated local ordinance setting the traffic fines and fees related to bicycle and pedestrian safety has been passed. Coupled with greater enforcement – including training for police officers – the long term goal is streets that are safe for all of our citizens, not just those who drive. Emily Trenholm CD Council Executive Director

1548 Poplar Avenue Memphis, TN 38104

Our Values: Balanced Development. Growth should be planned and managed in a way that balances both private and public interests. Future growth must address the entire community’s need for economic development and healthy, diverse neighborhoods. Shared Benefits & Costs. All Shelby County residents must share in the economic benefits of growth, as well as its costs. Public expenditures (tax dollars) should be spread equitably among both new and existing neighborhoods. Access & Choice. All residents deserve equal access to jobs, schools, shopping, transportation, and neighborhood facilities. Citizens also must have choices in housing type and location, as well as multiple transportation options. Community Input & Collaboration. All residents should have a voice in how the community is developed. Venues for effective citizen input should be wellpublicized, timely, and accessible. Environmental Protection. Open space, natural habitats, and landscapes must be protected and preserved for the benefits of citizens and the greater community.

www.livablememphis.org 2

(901) 725-8370


LIVABLE MEMPHIS

Spring 2014

Promoting Healthy Growth in the Memphis Region

Review of A Fierce Green Fire

By Aubrey DeVine, LM intern

On Sunday February 23, Livable Memphis and community partners hosted the premiere of A Fierce Green Fire, a powerful film highlighting five of the largest environmental movements in history. Livable Memphis, The Sierra Club, and Brooks Museum of Art collaborated to bring the film along with special guest and director, Mark Kitchell, to Memphis. The movie combines news footage, interviews, materials from the archives, and the knowledge of top scientists, activists, and representatives in order to provide historical perspectives and ideas for future progress. A Fierce Green Fire begins in the 1960s with the rise of the Sierra Club’s fights to stop the construction of dams in the Grand Canyon. Their efforts to save Dinosaur Monument were successful only by sacrificing Glen Canyon. However, president of the Sierra Club, David Brower, and his followers continued to gain attention and support until Congress was forced to give into the pressure, canceling and later prohibiting dam construction in the Grand Canyon. The Sierra Club had one great victory against dam construction as the first Earth Day shifted the focus of conservation efforts toward pollution problems. The movie next focuses on Love Canal, a community in Niagara Falls, New York. The neighborhood buried 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals that were slowly leaking into surrounding water sources and soil. In the mid 1970s the neighbors within Love Canal began noticing the high rates of disease and birth defects (56% of babies) and started to push for permanent relocation. After years of residents’ conducting studies, staging protests, and even holding EPA officials hostage, President Jimmy Carter finally agreed to temporary and permanent relocation of the neighborhood. Around this time, the concept of Environmental Justice was born, as it became apparent nationwide that African Americans and other minorities were suffering a much larger burden of pollution. The third section of the movie, entitled ‘Alternatives’ questions how society functions. It focuses on the new technology of alternative energy sources and the Greenpeace fight against whaling and sealing. There are powerful scenes of Paul Watson, Greenpeace leader, and his team physically placing themselves between harpoons and a pack of whales and throwing away the clubs of sealers. It is a fight which Greenpeace made great strides, but continues to fight to this day. Next, in the ‘80s, environmental efforts shifted to saving the Amazon. The rubbertappers, a native tribe in the Amazons and their leader Chico Mendes peacefully fought against forest clearing and road construction on their land. The tribe won a pivotal battle over Cachoeira plantation, but Mendes was assassinated soon after. However, his death brought new life and motivation in the fight for the Amazon. Elsewhere in the world, communities also struggled for the right to healthy land, clean water, and forests. During this period, global discussions about sustainability led to the rise of that concept within the environmental movement’s focus on climate change. The last section of the film highlights the struggles of the Kyoto Protocol and the massive natural disasters of the twenty-first century. Disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, continue to remind us of the global climate crisis we have created for ourselves. There are currently more than two million organizations working on social justice and environmentalism in the world. Society must rethink the importance of our natural surroundings before we destroy the environment which keeps us alive. 1548 Poplar Avenue Memphis TN 38104

www.livablememphis.org 3

(901) 725-8370


LIVABLE MEMPHIS

Spring 2014

Promoting Healthy Growth in the Memphis Region

South MEMFix: Mississippi /Walker

by Courtney Mcneal, LM Intern

In the month of October, Livable Memphis and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team worked with LeMoyne-Owen CDC, Knowledge Quest, South Memphis Alliance, and the Soulsville Neighborhood to host South MEMFix: Mississippi/Walker. This event temporarily transformed a corner of the South Memphis neighborhood, engaging the community to show South Memphians and residents from all over the city how this amazing space can serve as a catalyst for economic growth and neighborhood revitalization. The residents’ involvement in showcasing change in their neighborhood was essential in making permanent improvements for pedestrians and revitalizing storefronts at the intersection. With soulful live music, mouth-watering eats from local food trucks, freshly painted vacant storefronts for retail pop-up shops, and enlightening live historic acts, attendees were able to support local businesses, gain knowledge of prominent South Memphis figures, and see the possibility of an improved neighborhood all while having a grand old time! What also made this one-day neighborhood transformation more exciting is that it catered to all ages. What is more heartwarming than the sight of eager youth taking part in this remarkable event, or the beautiful smiles on the faces of adults who grew up in South Memphis seeing a new glimpse of the neighborhood from their childhood? This was simply priceless! In addition to South MEMFix, the city has hosted MEMFix events in the University District at Highland and Walker, and in the Crosstown neighborhood. For 2014, Livable Memphis and the Community Development Council will be taking the reins on a new MEMFix event and we have heard a lot of suggestions about possible locations. It’s not too late to tell us what you think, but time is ticking! Who will be the lucky neighborhood chosen for the next MEMFix event? Just hold on, it will be worth the wait!

Introducing our new Creative Placemaker In February, Livable Memphis hired a new Creative Placemaker, Ellen Roberds. The job is a one-year grant-funded position meant to help revitalize neighborhoods in Memphis through small tactical interventions. Creative Placemaking uses art, culture, and creativity to transform a deteriorating neighborhood into a lively area. In the past, Creative Placemaking has been very successful in Memphis neighborhoods, such as Broad Avenue and Crosstown. In her role, Ellen will focus on implementing two initiatives in Memphis: executing crowdfunding strategies with the ioby project and leading a team in a MemFix project on a to-be-determined community. Ioby is a nonprofit organization which helps community leaders fund raise and execute small projects to improve their neighborhood. Ellen will help create a network of participants who use ioby by connecting with the community and providing technical assistance through peer mentoring meetings. With the MEMFix project she will use tactical urbanism, defined as “a collection of public space and planning tactics focused on improving the livability of towns and cities” (CNU New England), to assist with the growth of a community. Some examples of tactical urbanism projects are cleaning and repainting an area, adding artwork, creating temporary bike lanes or pedestrian areas, or building benches for the public to rest on their daily routines. Ellen will help plan and implement all of these ideas during her one year position here at Livable Memphis. If you have a project idea for ioby, feel free to contact Ellen Roberds at ellen@livablememphis.org and she can help make it happen! 1548 Poplar Avenue Memphis TN 38104

www.livablememphis.org 4

(901) 725-8370


LIVABLE MEMPHIS

Spring 2014

Promoting Healthy Growth in the Memphis Region

Tax Dead Properties in Memphis

By Aubrey DeVine, LM Intern

Urban blight, the result of the abandonment and deterioration of property, is a long-term problem in our city of Memphis, TN. It causes a decrease in property values, an increase in crime, and detracts from industrial growth. There are many reasons for urban blight, but abandonment and mounting tax debt are probably the most common causes. When owners cannot pay the taxes on a property, it is often abandoned and the tax debt accumulates to be greater than the value of the property itself. This situation is commonly know as being “upside-down” or “under water.” As a result, numerous Memphis properties sit decaying in overwhelming debt. The city has long fought against blight, and last March the Wharton administration’s proposal for a vacant property registry was passed by the City Council. This proposal now requires mortgage lenders to register abandoned single-family homes drowning in property taxes. Although this is a good step to rehabilitation, there are still many abandoned property owners that have not identified themselves. With ownership comes responsibility, and in 2010, 43,500 residential properties in Memphis did not meet the anti-blight housing code according to the University of Memphis Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action. Unused and neglected property is a waste of space and money and creates a disorderly image for a neighborhood. It is a difficult situation to remedy, but Steve Barlow, Memphis attorney, and other players have made blighted commercial and residential properties a regular appearance in the Shelby County Environmental Court through stricter enforcement of anti-blight regulations. Additionally, Barlow’s office is now proposing to offer credits for the tax debt to offset new investments to revitalize abandoned properties where the tax burden outweighs the value.

Welcome Our New Livable Memphis Program Director We are excited to welcome John Paul Shaffer as the new Program Director for Livable Memphis! John Paul comes to us by way of the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, where he worked as a transportation planner focused on active transportation, transit, and public outreach. He will be jumping right into Livable Memphis’ planning and advocacy work focused on Complete Streets, transportation access and safety, and neighborhood revitalization. John Paul is a native Memphian and a graduate of the Masters Program in City and Regional Planning at the University of Memphis, where he focused on neighborhood planning and food security. You can reach him at johnpaul@livablememphis.org.

1548 Poplar Avenue Memphis TN 38104

www.livablememphis.org 5

(901) 725-8370


LIVABLE MEMPHIS

Spring 2014

Promoting Healthy Growth in the Memphis Region (continued from page 1) In order to help the City of Memphis, Livable Memphis has created a Walkability Toolkit for the public to use as a resource for sidewalk assessment and repair information. The goal of the toolkit is to help the city enforce sidewalk maintenance by informing citizens of their responsibilities and providing information to complete the repair. The toolkit includes:  A sidewalk survey to give community members detailed guidelines for sidewalk standards in the city  A list of bonded sidewalk repair contractors and contact information  A friendly template letter to inform neighbors of a damaged sidewalk in front of their property.  Contact information for the City of Memphis Sidewalk Department If you or your neighbor’s sidewalk needs repair, please contact Livable Memphis for the Walkability Toolkit. We are happy to come make a more thorough presentation at your neighborhood Create safe, walkable sidewalks in your community association or community group.

Community Development Council & Livable Memphis Membership 

Individual Memberships       

$15. Grassroots/Student Member $35. Individual Member $65. Family Member $100. Supporting Member $500 and up. Sustaining Member $50. Community Associations or Nonprofits with budgets less than $25,000. $250 to $499. Other Nonprofits and Small Businesses.

Name Organization or Neighborhood Address City, State, Zip Phone

Indicate Areas of Interest       

blight eradication expanded transportation options increased facilities for walking and biking neighborhood economic vitality safe, affordable, and quality housing safe and sound lending practices sustainable and efficient development patterns other _____________________

Email

Contact Us: 1548 Poplar Avenue Memphis TN 38104 Phone: (901) 725-8370 Online: www.livablememphis.org Email: info@livablememphis.org 6


THRIVE Newsletter Spring 2014  

The Spring 2014 edition of THRIVE highlights @LivableMemphis' Creative Placemaking, Tactical Urbanism, blight reduction, and pedestrian safe...

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