North Memphis

BLDG Memphis and new board look to the future of community development in and after the pandemic

BLDG Memphis has elected a new 2020-21 board of directors who will help steer the organization's work in unprecedented times.

"I am excited about the work the board will put in to develop and adapt policies that will preserve and move our neighborhoods forward post-COVID-19 and assure those communities will continue to thrive," said Charia Jackson, BLDG Memphis' new board president and deputy director of Frayser CDC.

"Now we have to think about how to advance the organization in a completely different way due to the health crisis," she said

BLDG Memphis is headquartered in North Memphis but isn't a community development corporation itself. It operates as a trade association and support organization for individuals and organizations in Memphis' community development space. Their goal is to see equitable reinvestment in healthy, vibrant, economically sustainable neighborhoods throughout Memphis.

BLDG Memphis helps its coalition of members coordinate advocacy and outreach efforts and pool resources towards more tangible progress on Memphis' most pervasive problems in housing, transportation, food access, public assets, infrastructure, and economics. It also promotes their work publicly and within its networks.

"The majority of our board members are CDC leaders and think about what it takes to support their work, which is why BLDG Memphis exists," said Jackson.

John Paul Shaffer, executive director at BLDG Memphis, said their three new board members bring expertise on housing, finance, and community programs, specifically with regard to youth.

"We also have solid, continued leadership on our executive committee and with our returning directors," he said.

BLDG Memphis has over 40 coalition members including community development corporations, neighborhood leaders, financial institutions, government entities, education institutions, and other advocates vested in equitable development.

"There's some very important work going on and it's even more important for us to highlight how our members are making an impact in our city," said Jackson.

The 2020-21 board is comprised of Jackson and:
  • Vice President Dr. Charlie Santo, University of Memphis
  • Secretary Cheryl Muhammad, Assured Real Estate/NAREB
  • Treasurer Gregory Love, The Works, Inc.
  • Member Kimberly Jones, Neighborhood Housing Opportunities
  • Member Dr. Katherine Lambert-Pennington, University of Memphis
  • Member Nefertiti Orrin, Community LIFT
  • Member Amy Schaftlein, United Housing, Inc.
  • Member Ben Schulman, Memphis Medical District Collaborative
  • Member Tiffany Turnage, South Memphis Alliance
Much of BLDG Memphis' work centers on five collaborative working groups that address public policies and practices around: affordable housing, community economic development, neighborhoods and local government, reuse and revitalization, and transportation and mobility.

The organization celebrated its 20th year in 2019. In addition to the new board, they're adding new staff. Shaffer said 2020 is also the first year for implementation of their new strategic plan, and they're adding staff.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the entire BLDG Memphis team—which includes its staff, board, and members—has shifted some advocacy work toward immediate response efforts like eviction relief and housing counseling.

"For instance, BLDG Memphis is working with Memphis Housing and Community Development and United Housing on how to use federal response grants for increased access to both rental and homeowner counseling. That counseling will be paired with the local Eviction Settlement Fund and mortgage assistance efforts to stave off growing housing instability," said Shaffer.

"We are also assembling members to meet with our federal legislators, remotely of course, to voice support for increased rental assistance and housing counseling funding in upcoming legislation," he continued.

While the path may be uncharted, Jackson said BLDG Memphis and its board will still be listening and responding to its coalition's needs.

"We have a strong board of expert leaders from around the city who support the mission of the organization," she said. "Our members do the work of community development, and we rely on them to guide how we support and convene them."

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.