SPARCC grant targets North Memphis for equitable development

North Memphis, which has suffered from chronic public and private disinvestment, is getting an injection of capital with a $1 million grant and access to a larger $90 million financing pool. 
“We need some of that pie,” said Mary Hill, 82, when asked if she fears the effects of the $200 Crosstown Concourse development on her longtime neighborhood of Klondike in North Memphis.
“What about us? We’re being left off.”
It appears that greater North Memphis, which has suffered from chronic private and public disinvestment, is at last getting an injection of capital with access to a pool of foundation-backed capital estimated at $90 million.

Related story: "As Crosstown Concourse Towers, North Memphis walks between gentrification and disinvestment"
On Feb. 15, the City of Memphis announced that Memphis is one of six cities to receive a $1 million SPARCC grant to ensure “that major new infrastructure investments lead to equitable, healthy opportunities for everyone,” according to a statement from SPARCC, or the Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge.
Over the next three years, the city will use the $1 million grant to hire development staff focused on North Memphis, complete demonstration projects and enhance community leadership and capacity.

A man walks across Jackson Avenue near the edge of the Smokey City neighborhood with Uptown.

That three-year ramp-up period preps North Memphis for a much larger $90 million finance pool. That funding will be delivered to the participating SPARCC cities with special terms financing rather than through a competitive grant process, said Maria Fuhrmann, grants coordinator with the City of Memphis.
Memphis, along with the other SPARCC recipient cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area will have access to that larger fund to advance local development efforts.
The boundaries for the North Memphis site are the Wolf River on the west and north, North Parkway/Summer Avenue on the south and North Graham on the east. That area includes neighborhoods such as Klondike and Smokey City, New Chicago and the heavily-invested Uptown suburb.
Bordering the North Memphis site are massive investments. Nearby is Crosstown Concourse, a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed use project set to open this spring. To the north is the Pinch District which is set for a complete transformation under the City of Memphis’ North Gateway Project, which is supported by $40 million in infrastructure improvements and $1 billion in new construction at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“One of the reasons that North Memphis was selected and Memphis won is that SPARCC is all about leveraging large investments for the benefit of communities, and there are so many things going on right around North Memphis,” Fuhrmann said. “Like Crosstown, the Gateway, the St. Jude expansion and all the things going on in the medical center.”

The Handy Spot is a barber shop located in Klondike for over 50 years. It is at 1342 Vollentine Avenue.
Fuhrmann said that priorities identified for North Memphis include adequate transportation, access to healthy foods and quality affordable housing. A table made up of grant partners and neighborhood community leaders will hone in on an equitable development plan.
According to the SPARCC release, the award will support the Memphis partners’ efforts to:
• Institutionalize policy and practices that incorporate diverse racial perspectives into community planning and development projects;
• Promote investment patterns and strategies that result in equitable development outcomes for neighborhoods and their residents;
• Improve health outcomes for residents by enhancing connectivity to healthy food, health services, access to green space and trails, and quality affordable housing;
• Improve the climate resilience of neighborhoods and the region through targeted home weatherization, repair, and improvement efforts.
“Some neighborhoods in Memphis have not seen investment in quite some time. By coming together as partners, our neighborhoods, businesses, community organizations, and political leaders can change the way projects are identified and implemented,” stated Emily Trentholm, executive director of Community Development Council of Greater Memphis.

“North Memphis will become the model for future development in the community, of the community, and by the community."

The former Sears distribution center will open as a mixed-use building in spring 2017. (Lauren Turner)
Spearheading Memphis’ application and fulfillment of the SPARCC grant is The Memphis Partners for Resilient Communities, a conglomerate made up of the following partners: The City of Memphis, the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, Hyde Family Foundations, LeBonheur Hospital, Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, Mid-South Greenprint, Neighborhood Preservation Inc., Shelby County Office of Sustainability, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, United Way of the Mid-South and the Urban Art Commission.
The SPARCC program is an initiative of Enterprise Community Partners, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Low Income Investment Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council and is backed by the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.
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Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.