New public speaker series to address importance of urban planning

With the city of Memphis executing its first comprehensive plan, urban planners are looking to best practices that could inform Memphis' unique character as a city. 

Some of those national leaders are coming to Memphis as part of the Planning Matters speaker series, which intends to promote the benefits of planning to the general public, demystify comprehensive planning and provide locals with ideas and best practices to enhance the Memphis 3.0 plan.

The series is supported by a grant from the Hyde Family Foundations and is facilitated by the Urban Land Institute and the University of Memphis Design Collaborative. 

Related: "Memphis 3.0 event maps early progress"

In 2016, the City of Memphis began work on Memphis 3,0, its first comprehensive land use planning process in nearly 30 years. The plan is scheduled for completion by 2019 to coincide with the city’s bicentennial.

“As our membership became aware of the city’s desire to move forward with a comprehensive plan, we started thinking about the role that we could play and the role that would be potentially most valuable given our interest in land use planning and responsible use of land,” said Archie Willis, chairman of the ULI Memphis District Council, which represents a local organization of real estate professionals and community development advocates.

“We need to have significant community involvement and engagement. Part of the exercise is to help people understand the planning process and how they can fit into that process to have a meaningful impact.”

The series gets underway on September 25 at the National Civil Rights Museum by welcoming guest speaker Jeff Tumlin, principal and director of strategy for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based firm that deals with mobility and transportation solutions for cities.

Tumlin has led award-winning plans in cities like Seattle, Vancouver, Moscow and Abu Dhabi that include millions of square feet of growth with no net increase in motor vehicle traffic. Locally, Nelson\Nygaard is best known for working with the Memphis Area Transit Authority on the creation of its Short-Range Transportation Plan in 2012.

“One of the challenges and one of the reasons we're doing this initiative is Memphis is a very diverse city in terms of geography, land use and our demographics. So it's important for everyone who is interested to have the opportunity to participate in the planning process so that we're the plan is finally completed it reflects the values, goals and aspirations of the broader community," said Willis.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our entire region. It is absolutely essential that we get it right.”

The Planning Matters series continues on November 9 with an event featuring Emily Talen, professor of Urbanism at the University of Chicago and author of New Urbanism and American Planning: The Conflict of Cultures, which examines land use planning through the lens of racial and economic equity.

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.