South City

What is South City?

The name's been around for a few years, but a lot of Memphians still don't know what South City is or where it's located. 

In 2016, the Memphis Housing Authority and the City of Memphis applied for and won a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. 

They and their key partners—including McCormack Baron Salazar, ComCap Partners, and Urban Strategies—wanted to revitalize southeastern Downtown and address the crumbling Foote Homes public housing project, which was the neighborhood's dominant feature at the time. 

They chose the name South City and set the boundaries as Peabody Place to the north, Walnut Street to the east, Front Street to the west, and the railroad tracks just north of E.H. Crump Boulevard as the southern boundary.

All told, the South City area spans 880 acres, although the area most commonly referred to as South City is a bit smaller. Its center is set just south of Beale Street and the FedEx Forum on the former site of Foote Homes where construction is now underway on phase three of new mixed-income housing. 

Related: "The last major vestige of segregation-era housing set for demolition"

Some Memphians might call this area South Forum or New Pathways or, simply, Downtown. Some may still call it Foote or Cleaborn. Cleaborn Homes was an expansion of Foote Homes built in the 1950s and both names are still including in the new monikers of the properties that replaced them: Foote Park at South City and Cleaborn Pointe at Heritage Landing. 

From Hope to Choice 
The South City development plan doesn't just include new housing, it also includes investment in the larger community, including parks and green spaces, business incentives. 

Related: "As residents return, South City looks to bring business back"

From the 1990s until 2010, the federal government's strategy for improving the nation's public housing projects—most of which were built in the 1930s and 40s and were falling apart due to decades of underfunding and poor oversight—was the Hope VI program. 

Under Hope IV,  some resident were displaced in order to de-densify the complexes and buildings were renovated or replaced. The focus was primarily on improvements to the buildings themselves. 

Related: "Reflections from four months on the ground in South City"

In 2010, HUD replaced Hope IV with the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Choice Neighborhoods puts more of a data-driven emphasis on improving the lives of residents. 

The South City Choice Neighborhood Initiative takes a three-pronged approach of people, neighborhood, and housing. It includes streetscaping and improvements to Church Park, LE Brown Park, and Army and Navy Parks. It also includes incentivizing and recruiting businesses to the area and providing social service support for low-income residents.  

Ultimately, the partners' goals include expanding opportunities for low-income families in employment and education, eliminating health disparities, and supporting, nurturing, and activating grassroots leaders.

Some of the intended new additions to the area under the initiative include an early childhood education center, grocery store, and homeowner repair program.   

Other key neighborhood partners include the RISE Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis, Advance Memphis, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College, and the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

The total estimated cost of the current vision for South City's revitalization is $210 million. 

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. 
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