Zoning Urban Design Walkability Projects

Memphis 3.0 Community Anchors: Reinvesting in Local Neighborhoods to Positively Impact Memphians

The Daniel Burnham Award-winning Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan charted a bold new vision for how the City of Memphis, Tennessee would “grow up, not out” as it embarks on its third century. Opticos Design was thrilled to assist the City of Memphis as they lead the innovative 3.0 Comprehensive Plan on behalf of a multidisciplinary team of national and local consultants. It was a pleasure to be invited back to help the city implement the plan through a series of small area planning projects.

They [Opticos Design] have been really good at translating ideas into design concepts. They developed place typology for the City of Memphis. They were able to look at the built environment and understand what we have as a building stock.

— Ashley Cash, Former Comprehensive Planning Administrator, City of Memphis

The City of Memphis is wasting no time making the Memphis 3.0 vision a reality.

As part of Accelerate Memphis, a $200 million bond program meant to facilitate catalytic community projects, $75 million is specifically allocated towards public investments in six Community Anchors identified in Memphis 3.0. Small Area Plans provide an opportunity for city planners and local community members to plan and envision how these public investments should be spent.

Community Anchors are at the heart of Memphis 3.0.

Just as an anchor steadies a ship, Community Anchors in Memphis are components in a place-based land-use strategy that provide steady support for the neighborhoods around them and can be catalysts in their revitalization. Anchors may be places of unique historic and cultural significance, or they might just be the place where neighbors rub elbows while grocery shopping or at an event in the local community center. In any case, these places empower the surrounding communities by providing vital daily goods and services while reinforcing the unique identity of Memphis communities and supporting walkable neighborhoods. The synergistic nature of places that are designated as “Community Anchors” means that money invested in one will have an outsized impact and can positively impact the largest possible number of Memphians.

Opticos’ work with the City to implement the Comprehensive Plan vision includes conceptual designs for public-realm improvements that will spur additional private development in each Community Anchor. These include design concepts that improve quality of life for existing residents such as complete streets, safer intersections, new and revitalized public spaces, and other investments that improve mobility and the public realm. Public improvements target areas that can stimulate private investment including the revitalization of existing buildings and when ready, new infill development. Improved neighborhood connections between neighborhoods and Community Anchors seek to increase access to services and amenities and link disparate neighborhoods together. Opticos is working closely with Toole Design to develop conceptual designs for these investments, making it easier, safer, and more convenient to get around Memphis by bike, foot, bus, scooter, and other multi-modal transportation choices. This helps to beautify neighborhoods while emphasizing their historic and cultural value.

In the Highland Heights Community Anchor at the intersection of Summer Street and National Avenue, the plan calls for redesigning Summer Street to improve access to local businesses.

By improving pedestrian facilities and reimagining the intersection of Summer, National and Broad streets to make crossings safer for people walking and riding bikes, it creates a connection between the nearby Broad Avenue anchor and Hampline pedestrian and bike pathway. An innovative new public space has been envisioned for the block of National Avenue just north of Summer Street, where a new curbless plaza will provide a gateway for the new Height Line pedestrian and bike path that will run along the median on National Avenue. This plaza will allow for flexible street closures to create a larger space for community events as needed and will create a civic focal point for the Community Anchor. As part of the area plan, opportunities for infill development and façade improvement have been identified to help support a high quality public realm.

Complimenting public realm investments at Community Anchors is an infill housing strategy that shows how neighborhoods around Anchors can add housing options to better match lifestyle and market demands, with a special emphasis on Missing Middle Housing types that help to maintain the residential built-form character of Memphis neighborhoods. Local economists Bass River Associates and ComCap Partners are providing market research and pro forma analysis to inform the housing strategy so that both building types and building financing are grounded in local conditions. Infill housing solutions are based on the specific lotting patterns found around each of the six Anchor Areas and correspond to specific market segments identified in the 3.0 Comprehensive Plan.

The City of Memphis is eager to break ground on improvements as part of the Accelerate Memphis program.

Local consultant Malasri Engineers is working with Opticos to prepare implementation strategies and costing information so that the City can move forward as quickly as possible in delivering the plan visions to Memphians.

Memphis 3.0 offers a bold vision for how the City can reinvest in its neighborhoods. These small area plans demonstrate what that investment will look like on the ground, and Opticos is grateful to be working with Memphians and the City of Memphis to take the first steps in “growing up, not out” for the next century and generations to come.