Memphis 3.0 event maps early progress

Planners with the City of Memphis and BLDG Memphis presented an early outline for the Memphis 3.0 strategic master plan, the first comprehensive city plan developed in nearly 40 years, on June 27 at Ballet Memphis in Cordova.

The event is one of four citywide presentations and panel discussions on key findings and community values collected during the background phase of the project.

Critical focus areas identified in the 3.0 plan are connectivity, livability, opportunity and sustainability, with high priorities including protecting the Memphis sand aquifer; making the bus system more reliable; addressing poverty through public, private and non-profit collaboration; promoting programs to renew blighted properties and lots; and creating faster transit options like light rail.

The median income level for the city of Memphis is around $37,000.

“People in the city spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing and transportation costs alone, and then when you get into lower income levels that percentage increases even more,” said Ashley Cash, comprehensive planning administrator with the city of Memphis.

“Then those folks who live in older parts of town end up spending even more of a percentage of their income on energy costs like utilities or improvements needed to make your house more resilient to climate. So we have some significant challenges as it relates to income in the city.”

People want more access to jobs and skills. More than 60 percent of the city’s jobs are in three planning districts: Downtown/Midtown core, East Memphis and Oakhaven/Parkway Village, but they are not well connected to transit access, the 3.0 planners learned.

“So when you talk a city that’s being able to attract new population, to attract the millennials, or to keep people once they start having children, they’re looking for certain things like walkable communities, a civic amenity like a park or an open space," Cash said.

"They don’t want to be tied down to a car and spend 20 to 30 minutes driving from the house to jobs,” explained Cash. “If we do want to be a city that’s moved into the next century, how do we begin to mesh those things like transit, employment and housing?”

Overall population in Shelby County is projected to increase by 0.4 percent by 2020, and by 2040 the area is expected to grow by 33,000 households.

“A little under half of that is projected to need to be multifamily,” said Cash. “We are also projected to need 1.3 million square feet of retail space.”

Memphis is looking at cities like Nashville and Denver as models as it continues development the 3.0 plan. A final version of the plan is expected by January of 2019.

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Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.