CA: Memphis to begin work on first comprehensive plan since 1981
The city of Memphis will begin in September coming up with a comprehensive plan that could guide the city’s growth for the next 20-25 years.
Over the next two years, the city will have hundreds of public hearings on the comprehensive city plan, which will be the city’s first since 1981, Chief Operations Officer Doug McGowen said.
“It will really serve as a North Star to make investments that are informed, that will get us to the level we want to see,” he said.
The newly created Office of Comprehensive Planning will lead the planning process, which will include getting input from citizens about what they want for their neighborhoods, their streets and their communities — similar to the process Nashville used to sculpt its plan, with some 400 public meetings, McGowen said.
“It will help us understand the character of our neighborhoods and how we want them to look,” he said.
After it’s finished, the plan will be updated every five to 10 years, he said.
The city will hire an administrator to lead the Office of Comprehensive Planning — a position paid for by eliminating another vacant position, McGowen said. The office will be staffed by current employees, whose salaries could be paid with a combination of local and national philanthropic grants.
The city will also have a private partner in coming up with the plan, but McGowen said the partnership and grants have not been approved yet.
The total cost of the plan — which will be offset by the grants — is $2 million. The administration doesn’t expect the plan to require an amendment to the fiscal year 2016-17 budget that goes into effect July 1.
Steve Barlow, an attorney specializing in anti-blight lawsuits who sometimes works for the city on blight cases, said many of the city’s challenges are the result of a lack of a “coordinated, comprehensive plan for our community,” which results in “chaos.”
“It’s a big endeavor,” he said. “Expensive for government to do. But I think it’s more expensive for government not to do.”
As part of the plan, a team led by the Housing and Community Development division will take a “fresh look” at the Downtown Tourism Development Zone. The TDZ was put in place about 15 years ago to help fund a convention center expansion and Downtown NBA arena projects, and eventually was used to redevelop the Pyramid as a Bass Pro Shops.
The TDZ encompasses St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Medical District, Mud Island and much of Downtown, including the Memphis Cook Convention Center.