Behind the Headlines – February 8, 2019

Behind the Headlines – February 8, 2019


– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines
is made possible in part by: The WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you.
Thank you. – Memphis 3.0 moves
towards completion, tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, president
and executive editor of the Daily Memphian. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by John Zeanah, director of Memphis
and Shelby County Division of Planning
and Development. Thanks for being here again. – Thanks, Eric. – And Yancy Villa-Calvo,
who’s an independent artist who worked on Memphis 3.0,
we’ll talk more about that. Thank you for being here. – Thank you.
– Along with Bill Dries, reporter with
The Daily Memphian. So people have heard
a lot, I think, we’ve done a number of
shows on Memphis 3.0, we’ve certainly
written about it a lot, but for those who haven’t,
as this moves toward the two-, three-year process,
moves toward a final plan for the city, John, talk
about what Memphis 3.0 is. – Sure, Memphis 3.0 is
a comprehensive plan for growth and
development for the city that looks 20 years
out and considers the priorities for how the city is recommended to
grow over that time. It looks at a variety
of different factors focusing on the areas of land we where wanna encourage
growth and development, the areas where we wanna
encourage stability. It looks at transportation,
how our street network, transit, and other
transportation connects to land use in
a very coordinated way, and it looks at
other factors as well related to green
space, sustainability, infrastructure, and opportunity
and how those elements connect to ultimately
the city’s vision for growth and
development over time. – And the draft plan has come
out, you’ve moved towards, Land Use Control Board
has to vote on it, I think on February 14th– – Yeah.
– And then it goes to the city council,
is that correct? – That’s right.
– For approval. The plan is up on the
website, give us the website. – Our website is Memphis,
the number 3.0.com. – Okay.
– And the public draft is out there, and we have
a public comment period that we’ve had over
the last 60 days in which individuals have
been able to submit– – Right.
– Comments, and those have been
worked into the plan. – And what’s notable, I
will not claim to have read all 412 pages, or 21 pages, I
can remember which one it was, but I did look at every
page, and I read some of it and I went through
it, and we’ve talked, I had no idea, as many
stories as we’ve done and shows we’ve done about
it, how really detailed it is, I mean, down to the
neighborhood level, down to schematics of how
roads and streets and trees should in ideal situations
be planned for in the city. I really expected, and I
probably follow this stuff, in terms of somebody not
involved, pretty closely, something much more general, much more sort of
high-level principles, and those are
described in there. But that level of
detail, how is that, again, describing how
street corners might look and how lanes might be split up and where trees might go,
how does that then play out going forward for people
who are developing or redeveloping or homeowners
and so on and so forth? – Sure, so ultimately, the
comprehensive plan is a guide that gives the city
direction on not only the vision for the city
when land use decisions are considered, so
when a developer brings an application to our office and they have to go before
the Land Use Control Board or the city council
for approval, up to this point, what
we don’t have is a vision for the future that says
this is what we’re attempting to accomplish or want
to see in this area with respect to
the type of growth. So it gives us a little
bit more clear indication of what we want to see in
terms of type of growth, which I think is a benefit
for community residents as well as developers
to understand what are the city’s goals
for future development. It matters for the city as well because the city makes
investments every day on things like infrastructure, makes investments
every day on things like transportation,
on sewer, and so on. Having a guide that shows
the desired levels of growth and what in order
to give direction on what is needed to
support those desired levels of growth, it’s necessary and is a important
instrument for a city to have in order to ensure
orderly growth but also ensure that
growth is predictable. And I think that’s
one of the things that we talked about first
time I came on the show, probably two years
ago, to talk about this is one of the things
that we’re missing without a plan is a
guide that provides a manner of predictable growth that not only community
can understand, the city can understand,
but the development community can
understand as well. – Yancy, we’ll bring
you in, and we’ve, you’re an artist, you’ve
been on the show before talking about art
and other things, but your role in
this is interesting and different than what
people might expect when they hear about a
lot of the conceptual and the plans and so on
that John is talking about, you were really on
the ground, right? – Right.
– And talking to people in the neighborhoods, in the,
what, 14 districts, I think, that are identified.
– Right. – Talk about your role
and why as an artist that was not a side part but was an essential part
of what you were doing. – Yeah, so what Memphis 3.0 did, John and Ashley
and the whole team, was really interesting, was
Memphis is making decisions or will be making decisions
about how to invest and how to grow the city,
but they wanna do it with the people,
with the information that the people
want to give out, and that’s what we were doing. So we were three artists
embedded into the neighborhoods, into the districts, and we
were working very heavily at the ground level,
trying to get the voices of people who
normally are not part of the comprehensive
plan or urban planning. So our goal was
through our creative, you know, weird
mind I always say, you know, artists have
this way of thinking that maybe we can
get to more people, and art is a
wonderful tool to use in order to get to
all kinds of people and all levels,
different backgrounds, different languages,
and so forth. So our goal was to develop tools in order to engage the community and digest the terms
that the urban planners need to have in order
to get that information. So it was wonderful
because we were able to create what we
wanted to create but also that it could
be something effective and bring that data
to the city planners. So we had a team
with a city planner and also architect firm
that we worked closely in each of the districts. – Yeah, Bill Dries. – So Yancy, you have anchors
in each of those 14 areas, and when you look at the
anchors for those areas, you really get a
feel for how diverse and how varied the terrain
for future development is. Some of these areas
are residential areas where you don’t have what
many people may associate with the word anchor,
and that is a commercial or a potential
commercial development. Talk a little bit
about what you heard in terms of going into
a residential area and people saying
this is the anchor around which our
community’s future can grow. – Yes, and that is a
very important term because people don’t
recognize those city terms. So anchor might be a word, a
heavy word for some people. So the way that I
approached it was to say, okay, where do you hang out,
where does your family go, how do gather, where do
you go after a school, or depending on whoever
I was talking to. So that way, we could
identify the places that they normally
go after work, where do they hang out,
and what do they value as a family, as an individual. And then after looking at
that, we did a lot of tours in each of the districts
where the community actually guided the tour,
and they would tell us this is where we need
to go, look at this. We would drive to that place and then we would
step out of the bus, and then people would
say, we could to this here and we have these dreams
and why don’t we change this and we use it in
a different way. So that is, there was
so much information that obviously the
city planners need and developers as well. – John, so when a
developer or a home builder looks at what’s been
developed in the plan with those areas
where people hang out, what’s referred to
as the anchors in it, does is in turn encourage
their development because it’s something
they might not have associated with that area or
thought about doing before? – The concept of
anchors in the plan is, like Yancy talked about, is
based on that we’re building around assets in a community,
that these are centers of activity, these are
nodes where the community already gathers today
or finds value today, and so there’s opportunities
to build around that and that the health of
the entire community can be improved through
focusing attention in and around
these anchor areas. So how that translates into
the mechanics of the plan, the anchors and ultimately
the goals of the anchors get translated onto
the land use map, and the land use map
describes some of the types of development character that
we wanna see in the future, some of the detail that
Eric mentioned a moment ago, where we do have illustrations
that give an idea for the types of change
that would be encouraged in those anchors and in
those anchor neighborhoods. And then also the types of form
and location characteristics that would be
encouraged by the plan related to those anchor
and anchor communities. So if you come into our office following the
adoption of the plan and you have a proposal
for what you wanna do in a particular community,
let’s say Berclair, for example, is a place
where Yancy worked, you’d be able to see
where are the anchors within the Berclair area
and what is being encouraged in those anchors and
what is being encouraged by the plan in the
areas around it. And then of course, if there
is an application that’s filed, there are rules in place,
that’s the zoning code, the UDC, and there
may be opportunities or there may be the
instance where a developer may be proposing something
that isn’t necessarily in line with the
rules but is found to be consistent with
the land use plan. So that would be mechanically
how that piece of it ultimately gets
applied into the normal sort of day-to-day
development process. – And it’s important
what you mentioned, the identity and the
character of the neighborhood, that it has changed in
different areas of the city. So what was probably
a neighborhood that has a park that it
was used for basketball, now the community has changed, so now they really wanna
use it for soccer, right? So then we recognized in
how is the city changing and how people in that
community wants to use the anchors is very
important to understand and to treasure, and that
is important information for the city planners
and the whole city. Now, another point
that is important is for people to
really be engaged, because the city has money
and is going to invest, is going to do
development, but if, you know, our goal was,
okay, asking people, you have to say what you
want in your neighborhood. Otherwise, they’re just
gonna think and put what they think is best,
so you have to come out, you had to be participant and
very active in the process. – It was, did I read
it was 15,000 touches, 15,000 respondents,
15,000 people that you talked to
across the city– – Right.
– In the 14 neighborhoods. For people who, I have
so many questions, but for people who maybe
are a little skeptical, who listen to this
and say, that’s great, sounds awesome, but Memphis’s
challenges are poverty, there are challenges
in education, crime. How does this
address those things that maybe for a lotta people
is more what they associate with these are what
the priorities for the city should be, these are the,
this is the vision for the city oughta address those
kinds of issues. – Sure, well, and so
the first thing I think that needs to be said is
that the comprehensive plan is very much sort of focused
on those elements of land, on connectivity, on opportunity,
and there are other plans that the city has, there
are other initiatives that the city has to address
many of those issues, whether it’s universal pre-K that Mayor Strickland
has recently announced or whether it’s the
increasing efforts to build minority- and women-owned
businesses in the city. Those aren’t
necessarily a direct tie to a land and
transportation plan, but they are initiatives
that the city is taking on to address
things like crime and poverty and
education and so on. But where there is a tie-in, much of the elements
that we have in the plan kind of relates back
to a lot of issues about upward mobility,
about economic equity, and about economic inclusion
within neighborhoods. And so what you see is, from
the land use perspective, an example would be
there is recommendations and guidance about
how there can be more incremental steps to begin
to make positive changes within communities that
have seen a high level of vacancy and blight and
how those incremental changes can start to attract
new development and attract new activity. You see recommendations within
the district priorities, and this is a good
example of what Yancy was just talking about, where
there are specific actions that were recommended
by community residents to talk about how
community space can change to draw the community together,
build social cohesion, and build more of a
connected community fabric. And so acting on
those actions helped to ultimately build
neighborhood and I think build a lot of the networks
within neighborhood that are necessary to
address more systemic issues like poverty, like
crime, like education. – Did you hear, I mean, my
sort of skeptical voice, did you hear that when you
were out in communities and talking to people, did
people come forward and say, well, you gotta address, you
know, the crumbling school, or you gotta address
the crime problem? Did you feel, did you
have to redirect ’em from that question, or was
that a question that you and comment and
conversation you embraced? – Yeah, so it’s a
really good question because at the beginning
when I didn’t know exactly what my project
was gonna be like, I just went in and asked people. So I had very negative
responses at the beginning, and then immediately
people would talk about the bad things
that are happening. So I decided to give it a switch and to create this GEMS project which stands for Go
Explore Memphis Soul, but gems as a precious stone,
as a value, as an asset base. So the whole project was
let’s, what are, you know, the most important thing
that we have, Memphis has, is you, you are the most
valuable thing that we have. You’re a Memphis gem, so
tell me about yourself. And then after that
would be let’s talk about what do you treasure
in your neighborhood, what do you love about
your neighborhood, so kind of give it a positive. Because the few
minutes that you have, you have to make sure
that they highlight those anchors, those
gems, that exist and then how do we
polish those gems. So yes, we heard the negatives, but every city has
its limitations, has its insecurities,
but we have to makes sure that we highlight
the positive things and how do we increase
that and highlight it to increase the economy to
better our city and so forth. – Yeah, Bill. – John, does this indicate
that maybe this new way of thinking about
planning is kind of ahead of where ordinary
citizens are in terms of looking at development? Because I think a lotta people, when they hear the
word development, they think shopping center,
something like that. They don’t think of
something like what might be a very small place
in the neighborhood where everybody gathers, a
park or something like that, somehow that’s not
seen as development. – Sure, and I think with,
throughout the process, we tried to talk about that
anchors can be different sizes, and anchors can be
different shapes, and they can change
in different ways. And we tried to encourage
our participants and ultimately tried to
encourage through the plan more of a broader
thinking about that change and development
can be incremental, and in many places,
incremental change is the more appropriate
step in order to get the level of growth
that is desired. So within our anchor areas,
if you’ve read the plan, you see that we treat
all of our anchors a little bit differently,
and one way we treat them differently based on their
size and their scale. So there’s
neighborhood crossings and neighborhood main
streets that are much smaller in scale in places that are
largely community supported or neighborhood
supported all the way up to urban centers and downtown
where there’s a much more citywide or regional draw
where a lot more people come in and interact
and maybe shop or eat or go to work or live. So there’s certainly
different scales in which these places
in the community sort of look and feel, but
there’s also different ways that anchors change over time. And that’s depending
on several factors, but largely factors
related to market potential and factors related to what
are community priorities, so we talk about those
in terms of nurture, accelerate, and sustain. So on the side of the
spectrum of nurture, places where we’ve seen
there’s very little market interest and
market involvement in terms of development,
but where we think that there are assets
that we can build around in communities, and it might
take more incremental steps. It might take the public sort
of getting out there first, you know, the city
getting out there first and making some small
incremental changes that start to see a shift
within the community over time and start to attract
that market interest into those nurture anchors. And then on the other
side of the spectrum, places of sustained, where
you’ve got neighborhoods that say, we’ve sort
of reached maturity in terms of what we wanna
see our community look like. Cooper-Young is a good
example where you’ve got residents there who say,
we are very satisfied with the level of maturity
that our community has reached, and
one of the steps that that neighborhood
took very recently was to pursue historic district
status for that reason. So sustaining is
somewhat of a good equivalent to that idea
of these areas have reached maturity, and they’re
going to change a little bit, but we wanna see
it in small steps. And then of course,
right there in the middle is accelerate, places
where we really wanna see the most rapid change
over the next 20 years. – Talk about, with
five minutes left here, a big part of the plan is also
transit and transportation, and that’s in, right,
the transit vision, actually–
– Right. Of a 10, 20, 30-year
plan for transit is bundled together with that. What can happen about transit
without much more funding? I mean, is that part, I mean, how does that fit
together with this? – Sure, the reason why we
took on the transit vision as a part of Memphis
3.0, number one, in our very first meetings,
we had 14 meetings in 14 days across the city
back in December of 2016, and in literally every meeting,
one of the top priorities that we got was the need
to make our transit system more efficient, more reliable. That was a pretty clear signal that that was a high
priority for the community, but it was something we were
already thinking about, too, because ultimately
we wanna be able to, wanted to be able to
prepare a comprehensive plan that looked at how land
use and transportation work together, and to the
degree that we were thinking about how we want
to build walkable, mixed-use, dense anchors,
how are those places connected in a way that
promotes that walkability, promotes that mix of
use in all anchors, and transit is a key ingredient
to making sure that happens. Ultimately, every transit
rider is a walker, is a pedestrian at some
point in their commute. So what we wanted to be
able to do was make that sort of idea of anchor
development transit oriented. In order to do that, what
we had to look at was how does our network work today. The way that it works
today is it’s very much about coverage
with low frequency, which means it takes more time to get from point A to point B. The transit vision
shifts that thinking, that philosophy, to a
more-frequent model, more buses more often
so that more individuals can think about using
transit to be able to get from home to work
or point A to point B. It will take a little
bit more investment in the transit system to get
to that frequent network, but we believe that by tying
it to the land use plan and by focusing it
along with our goals for future growth and density, that density can help
continue to sustain and support a more-frequent
transit system over time. – A longer question with
just a few minutes left, but when you were out
talking to people, did you get concern expressed
about gentrification, about neighborhoods that,
wait, this could just like turn my
neighborhood into a place that’s too expensive,
that pushes me out, I’ve lived here
forever or generations. Was that a concern that
people had, or were they just, no, we just want
development, we want more? – Both.
– Yeah. – Depending on who you
were asking, of course, but that’s how, it’s
a very important piece of the equation because
we have to be careful on how we’re growing, right,
and really look at that, you know, the people
who are currently there and the identity, what
are they representing and what is the city doing
and the whole neighborhood to empower that community
to have the resources to stay in the neighborhood
and not be feeling that they’re being sent away. Now, there are many
neighborhoods changing, and that’s also the benefit. People are coming back to the
city, and that’s what we want. We want people to come back and to invest and to
better the economy. So one of the things
that we are doing is working at the
bottom through the arts and highlighting
those neighborhoods on how many of them
feel like Memphis have a negative perception
of their neighborhood, and they want to
highlight it, you know, how do we do that
through the arts. So we’re having a
series of art projects with the community,
by the community to invite the rest of Memphis
to learn about their history, to learn about
their new stories. And then in the top,
how do we get this plan to be adopted and Memphis
to become competitive with other cities by increasing,
retaining talent, right, and bringing more
talent to the city. – All right, well, we
will leave it there, and I’m sure we’ll do
more stories about this as it goes forward. Thank you for being
here, thank you, Bill, and thank you for joining us. Join us again next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

Author:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *