by Dena L. Owens, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

How can Memphis reduce blight? How will its citizens gain more access to jobs through public transportation? How will the city make neighborhoods safer?

These questions are debated daily in social media, offices and homes by native Memphians and transplants alike. But, in the last two years, the City of Memphis held public meetings to solicit opinions from every area of the corporate city limits.

From 2016 to 2018, the City engaged in a five-phase process with citizens to create a vision for Memphis over the next 100 years when it turns 300 – thus, the plan is named “Memphis 3.0.” During the process, 15,000 voices were heard from Whitehaven to East Memphis and from Frayser to Cooper-Young.

City planners examined tons of input to create appealing, yet challenging strategies and policies that will impact 14 planning districts across Memphis, including blighted areas on Lamar, Jackson and other thoroughfares.

The result … a 412-page plan draft was explained at the Land Use Control Board meeting in February. The board approved the Public Plan draft, and the edited 465-page draft will be presented to the Memphis City Council for first reading on March 19.

The days of outward growth through annexation are long gone — building upward inside the city core will be the trend, generating increased population density and community connectivity, as well as a growing tax base.

Picture it … a lively, bustling Memphis with Bus Rapid Transit lanes — wider sections for vehicles next to partitioned narrow paths for bicycles, electric cars and scooters. Upgraded transit systems, parks and recreational spaces are expected to drive new types of businesses, jobs and housing choices.

Envision the pop-up of mixed-use development in your urban neighborhood with a look and feel similar to Crosstown Concourse, Broad Avenue Arts District or The Citizen development at Union Avenue and McLean Blvd.

Imagine the sights and sounds of walkable retail areas, schools and churches serving as anchors for nearby housing that may include single unit homes, as well as high-rise living.

Will high-rise condominium and apartment living options grow more in demand than single-unit housing?

The answer is likely “yes” given the need for reduced spaces for singles and smaller families. As the city’s growth footprint shrinks, needs for large living spaces are also shrinking due to changing demographics.

A surge in young adults seeking smaller-scale housing and nearby amenities continues to grow as they use and spend money differently from previous generations. Further, with ever-changing technology advances, more work-from-home opportunities are predicted to be available, and older adults are likely to downsize in retirement into shared communities – a combination of private and cluster housing with shared access to common areas and amenities that provide convenience and cost savings.

Memphis 3.0 partnered with numerous organizations, nonprofits, architects, artists and volunteers to document the needs and desires of its citizens, and shape a vision that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and other city and Shelby County officials sought to develop.

While it took only two years for the City to complete a strategy for Memphis 3.0, full implementation is expected to take 20 years. However, the start of the plan can be seen currently as new, mixed-use developments (housing combined with commercial use) in the Midtown and Downtown areas already reflect upward growth.

In 2018, Memphis experienced more than $1.5 billion in economic development investments. As new developments take shape, The New Tri-State Defender will be reporting on whether they produce increased opportunities for minority and women business owners to provide relevant services to the projects. In coming weeks, The New Tri-State Defender also will provide more information on how to prepare and apply for opportunities through various sources.

No draft plan of this nature and size goes without some points of criticism. For example, in Midtown, some residents are concerned about the possibility of traffic congestion and modern architecture clashing with the style of other Midtown properties. Shelby County Planning & Zoning experts are addressing concerns about the plan as any issues develop, while others are addressed within the draft.

All in all, Memphis 3.0 is purposed to make life more convenient, safe and interesting for every resident. To see the detailed, 465-page draft Public Plan, visit www.memphis3point0.com.