It’s not just a hipster movement. Urban revitalization is a world movement. As society shifts toward urbanization, areas are quickly beginning to renew abused, forgotten, and undiscovered parts of inner cities. Citizens are taking responsibility for their cities, and ownership of the abandoned areas. These regeneration projects demand innovation, vision casting, and planning for future stability.
Ambitiously renewing its core, Memphis is home to a vast list of urban revitalization projects. Check out this list for 8 of those projects:
1. Broad Avenue
Initially a suburban community on the railroad line, Broad Avenue and the surrounding area, Binghampton, was annexed by Memphis in 1919. Once a thriving neighborhood built around the railroad line, Broad Avenue soon became the life and heart of the city. As the economy around the railroad gradually slowed, so did the business and energy. It became empty store fronts, abandoned warehouses, and basically an eye sore. With the help of The Mayor’s Innovation Team, Binghampton Development Corporation, Broad Avenue Arts District, and devoted citizens; Broad Avenue is now a thriving business center catering to commuters, cyclists, and pedestrians. A place for the community built by the community. You need to check out its recent transformations and additions: WiseAcre Brewing Company, The Hampline, Found Studio, The Water Tower Pavilion, Relevant Roasters, and much more.
You know you’ve seen it: the huge vacant warehouse/tall building situated on 18 acres in the intersection of Cleveland and N. Parkway. In the 20th century, Sears built this massive building as a distribution center/department store. Of course the employment, consumer, and distribution traffic brought a ton of life to the surrounding community; but just as soon as the lights went out in the massive landmark, so did the lights in the community. But Memphis is not neglecting the responsibility anymore. We’ve seen popup shops, Memfix events, and many more efforts advocated by artists, educators, advocacy groups, young professionals, businesses, and residents. Crosstown now boasts The Flea Market, Visible Music College, Amurica Headquarters, Story Booth, Co- Motion Studio, The HiTone, and the development of the Sears Crosstown Building. On the forefront of urban revitalization, The Crosstown Sears Building will be repurposed into an urban village; encompassing ALSAC, Church Health Center, Crosstown Arts, Gestalt Community Schools, Methodist Healthcare, Memphis Teacher Residency,Rhodes College and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ALL UNDER ONE ROOF.
3. Cycling Trails
Twelve years ago, Memphis was given a reputation of being one of the least bike friendly cities. With the addition of The Shelby Farms Greenline , Greater Memphis Greenline, The Hampline, The Riverside Lanes and other cycling implementations, it has done a complete one eighty. Combining community, healthy lifestyles, affordable transportation, sustainability, and beautification; Memphis has worked hard to make its city a cycle city. Oh yeah, and Memphis was recently named The Premier Destination For Cyclists. Offering over 133 bike friendly lanes, bicycling usage has doubled since 2008 in Memphis. The best has yet to come though, as over 273 miles of bike lanes are projected to be in Memphis by 2016.
The Mississippi River may or may not be Memphis’ first claim to fame. Situated along the banks of the mightiest river of all, one cannot argue the tribute Memphis’ current, past, and future history owe to Old Man River. Away from a grassy plane and forgotten pyramid, there was not much glorifying the landform we credit everything to. To unite its citizens together with its river, the Riverfront Development Corporation announced an expansive plan, and immediately began work. Building out Beale Street Landing first, nobody can deny the excitement felt crossing the bridge and seeing the immaculate public space, with a city sprawling behind it. And it’s not just a park. It’s a splash pad, riverboat dock, restaurant, museum, and now an outdoor fitness space (thanks to the Memphis Grizzlies’ Campaign “Get River Fit”). With all of these urban tactics generating in a quick period, we can’t wait to see the Riverfront after its all said and done.
5. Sustainable Agriculture
An area with one of the highest obesity rates, our citizens are in desperate need of healthy, viable, and affordable options. Situated in a prime climate for year-round agriculture, it is only reasonable that we produce healthy food options for our citizens. A perfect agriculture climate and high obesity rate, are a recipe for disaster; and Memphis residents are taking it into their hands to till the ground with a non-disastrous plan: urban farming. Repurposing rooftops, empty buildings, blighted lands, and even their own back yards, a diverse collection of urban farmers and markets call Memphis home. For a few examples check out Memphis Farmers Market, Cooper Young Farmers Market, and Urban Farms Memphis. Memphis even boasts a first of its kind, an urban farmer training program.
6. Overton Square
Overton Square was founded in 1969 and has been home to many Memphis landmark businesses, including Solomon Alfred’s, the Public Eye, Bombay Bicycle Club, Gonzales & Gertrude’s, the Hot Air Balloon, Lafayette’s Music Room, Godfather’s Supper Club, Yosemite Sam’s, an ice skating rink and T.G.I. Friday’s first location outside of Manhattan. A failure to maintain and continuity to improve, Overton Square eventually lost its appeal and attraction. It quickly became an eyesore right in the heart of Memphis. Loeb Properties purchased the property in 2012 after citizens’ pleas to see the area’s grandeur restored. Today Overton Square is now home to thriving businesses anchored by three live-performance theaters and a multi-screen movie theater. It’s a great time in Memphis history to visit The Square, and join in on this revitalization effort.
7. Urban Education
High crime rates, poverty, unemployment, blight, domestic violence- you’re probably more than aware of the problems cities face. Also, you probably know Memphis faces a multitude of these problems. What you may not know is ALL of these problems tie back to education. In 2010, Memphis had 68 of 85 of Tennessee’s lowest performing schools. Memphis had the 24th largest school district in the nation, but the 4th poorest. Answering the call to action, the Achievement School District and Shelby County iZone brought innovation, sustainability, revitalization, and reform to the city’s education efforts. National public charters Aspire, Greendot, YESPrep, and dozens more have swarmed the city. This past year, Memphis had larger gains in literacy, math, and science than almost all districts in the United States. As Memphis continues this success, the whole world is replicating our actions. Memphis needs foot soldiers to fight this battle with and sustain this effort. We need amazing teachers willing to invest careers into reforming our cities core. Will you join these efforts?
8. Public Art
With organizations like the Urban Art Commission and other privately commissioned artists working in neighborhoods or along the major gathering spots, you’ve seen the artwork. With such public artwork as Yvonne Bobo‘s orbitals in Peabody Park, Greely Myatt’s “Cloudy Thoughts” that appeared in 2008 on Madison, as well as murals like Siphne Sylve‘s own contribution to the I Love Memphis series, her “I Love Memphis” bike mural on the Greenline, Urban Art’s Poetry Panels featuring song lyrics that refer to Memphis on South Main, Brandon Marshall‘s numerous murals, and so many more. Public spaces provide free areas of enjoyment for all, and public art is one of the ways Memphians are renovating blighted areas. We love finding these hidden gems all around the city and posting their photos on Instagram. Have you taken photos of the public art around town? Tag them with #choose901 on Instagram!