Behind the Headlines – September 5, 2014

Behind the Headlines – September 5, 2014


(female announcer)
This is a production of WKNO-Memphis. Production funding for
“Behind the Headlines” is made possible in part by.. A new green print plan
envisions more bike lanes, paths and green spaces
for the area tonight on “Behind the Headlines.” [theme music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by Rusty Bloodworth. Executive V-P for Boyle
Investments and a longtime supporter of the
Memphis chapter of U-L-I. Thank you for being here. You bet. Chip Johnson from
Hernando, Mississippi — Mayor of Hernando, Mississippi. Thank you for being here. I’m glad to be here. John Zeanah from the Office of
Sustainability Regional Green Print Planning. We’ll talk about a bunch
more about what you do. And Bill Dries, senior reporter
from the Memphis Daily News. Let me come first. Thank you all for being here. Let me come first to you, John. You’re the director of the
office that just put a plan together, a
regional plan process. Not just Memphis or not just
Shelby County but obviously in to Mississippi. Tell us what the plan is
and why it’s important. The Mid-South Regional Green
Print and Sustainability Plan, um, is a four county three
state plan that seeks to connect Shelby County,
Fayette County, Tennessee, Crittenden County,
Arkansas and DeSoto County, Mississippi with a
network of green space. It looks at how we can build on
our natural assets that we have an abundance of in our
region to create more than just recreational opportunities
but also think about how we can leverage our green spaces to
enhance transportation options, improve our health
and our environment, improve quality of life in
communities throughout our region and also provide
opportunities for economic growth. Yeah, and Chip, you’re here. You’re from Mississippi. It’s Shelby County. Sometimes, you know,
we, maybe in the media, makes more of it the areas
are in a competition with one another. But this is an area in which
working together apparently is very important. I’m a big fan of using the
term friendly rivalry instead of competition. Because I’m a firm believer that
anything good that happens in the whole Memphis
region is good for Hernando, Mississippi and vice-versa. So, I think we need to work
together on this plan because anything we do.. If I build a trail in Hernando,
it needs to eventually connect. And if there’s a
trail built in Southaven, it needs to eventually
connect somewhere in Memphis. A dead end trail
does no one any good. So, I think doing this regional
plan is good on a lot of fronts. Rusty, you’ve been involved with
Urban Land Institute in Memphis for many, many years now. You’re also.. Boyle obviously has done
development of all kinds, shapes and sizes in the area. In your time here,
there’s been this shift, I imagine, that you’ve seen. I mean it used to be
Memphis was known. You know, we lead
the fattest city. And it was not the city
was viewed as healthy. And just in the last
five to ten years, you’ve got the Green Line. You’ve got the kind of
rebirth of Shelby Farms. You’ve got, uh,
bike lanes all over. You’re sense of the
shift and how long it’s, you know, what’s it
taken to get to this point? And what does it
look like going 10, you know, 15 years out? Well, I think we’re excited
because there has been a shift. And I think that
the shift, for me, looking back historically
probably the point where it tipped was the Green Line. I think the Green Line brought
in an opportunity to actually get on a bike and go a fairly
long distance and connect with something that
was very precious, Shelby Farms, way deep in
to the Memphis community. And we had things that
laid the foundation, things like the
Shelby Farms activity and, uh, investments that occurred. We had a little
bit of trail work. But really, that
Green Line, I think, captured a lot of people’s
imagination with young people and older people,
particularly the group. My children were
captured by that Green Line. And it’s all about, I think,
getting great talent here in Memphis. But it’s also retaining the
talent that’s growing up here. So, we think this is critical. Yeah. Bill? And Mayor, you touched on
something about you build the trail. It’s got to connect to
something at some point. And Rusty, I think your point on
this as well is everybody I know of who gets in to
the Green Line, who finds out
about these trails, these green ways, the
first thing they want to know, the first question is okay,
where does it connect after this. How can I get there? Is that what has brought us
to kind of a tipping point? Because it’s almost,
it’s really contagious. I can go from here to there. I can go from there to here. One of the things we think about
in terms of new urbanism is linking things together in
really tight loops that the smaller for walking. It’s really important to have
blocks that are not too large. And the smaller the block is,
the more people will walk around the block. Same things true when
we think about trails. You’ve got to be able
to have a connectivity. But you need really interesting
places to go on that walk. And when we can take these
great dots that we’ve got in our region that we’ve got down
in Mississippi in Coldwater resources and the
Wolf and the Nonconnah, Loosahatchie, Shelby
Forest, Shelby Farms, Downtown over to Arkansas. We start to connect
these things in loops. We get a vibrancy. We haven’t seen it yet. I think we’re right now just
looking at linear connections. But we really don’t
have a great loop system. I think the first
time we get a real, true full loop, people
will be all over using it. And it will be something
we haven’t seen before. So, that’s really exciting. Mayor, I was going to say what
have you seen in terms of the promise that Rusty talked about
in terms of development and potential for it that
you’ve seen in Hernando. What we’ve found is through a
lot of exploration of other cities, we found
that people really, really want to locate their new
businesses where they want to live. And I think we all heard Mick
Hornett from Oklahoma City tell his story about how businesses
now aren’t necessarily looking for tax incentives as much as
they are looking for a place where they and their
families want to live. And that’s what
we need to create. We can’t just hope we’re going
to get a business that comes in and solves our whole tax problem
and creates a great community. We first have to create that
great community so that we have a place they want to live. And I think that’s what
we’re seeing happen now. We’re seeing more. And I look at my
town more than most. And we’re seeing companies
literally want to move to our town because it’s a place
where they want to live. And a huge piece of that
is pedestrian and bicycle facilities. And I also see that other people
are getting that bigger picture. Our northern district
highway commissioner, Mike Tagert, he helped award
us a transportation enhancement grant a couple of years ago
that we’re about to see come to fruition next spring. And we’re going to do a two mile
linear park for pedestrians and cyclists on one
of our main roads. And the reason that we got that
grant above some others is that we had a plan. And part of that plan
had been involving others. We had a small grant
for bicycle striping. And we were deciding
where to stripe those lanes. And somebody much smarter
than me said wait a minute. Why don’t we ask the bicycle
club where to put those lanes? And we did. And the bicycle club said no,
you need to put them here so we can find a safe route
under the interstate. And sure enough,
they were right. Because the highway commissioner
looked at that and said hey, y’all have been looking at this. Y’all have been working across
different boundaries and where you’re asking to put this new
one connects to the rest of town. So, all of a sudden,
we get a $600,000 grant for a two mile linear
park based on proper planning and being inclusive of
all the people around us. What about funding? I’ll go to you, John. We talk about grants. The plan envisions
many, many miles at 450, give or take. 450 new miles. 500 total. We’ve got about 50
on the ground today. Okay. The cost associated
with that is huge. Is that right? So, where does that
funding come from? And it’s not once
source, I don’t think. And it’s not all at once. But talk about that. Yeah, absolutely. So, the plan is
the 25 year plan to, as you said, put 500 miles
of trials on the ground. And in order to do that, I think
we’re going to have to take advantage of a broad number of
funding sources over the course of that 25 years. Certainly, you know, we want
to take advantage of federal funding. And the plan itself was
federally funded through a sustainable community’s
regional planning grant. But we also want to look at
state opportunities similar to transportation
enhancement funds, any local funding opportunities
that we may have down the road. But also, I think we’ve
got a lot of interest from, um, you know, private sector,
from the philanthropic community to think about, you know, what
funding looks like to help get these projects going. You know, the
interesting thing, too, about this type of
plan is, you know, even though its 500 miles
that comprised the network, it’s not necessarily
one big, you know, massive project. It’s hundreds of small projects
that we could just go piece by piece. And I think similar to what
Mayor Johnson talked about with the buy in from the community,
that’s been a major strength that we’ve had in putting this
plan together and I think will be a major strength in helping
us leverage funds down the road. The fact that we’ve had over 80
organizations help participate in putting this plan together. We’ve reached out to thousands
of residents across the region, you know, who’ve been extremely
supportive and excited about what this can bring. And we’ve had so much
interest from public, private, philanthropic sectors. And I think that that, you know,
demonstrating that regional buy-in helps us to be able to
leverage all those different funding sources that
we’ll certainly have to, um, bring in to play. And as you said, Rusty, I mean
if the Green Line was the kind of tipping point. I mean that was kind of public. And it was some big, you know,
money philanthropists getting together and then working with
the railroad company and kind of turning the corner. I mean clearly Shelby Farms,
the same deal where the Hyde Foundation and others
come in and say look, you know, if we build it,
we think people will come. And they certainly have. From a business point
of view and maybe from, you know.. You’ve developed
all over the area, Boyle Investments has. Where the money.. I mean, how does
the money work there? How does your
view of saying look, I’m going to put development
versus here because there are or there is a Green Line or there
is a park or there are bike paths? Does that factor in for
you on the development side? Is that more and more important
when you look at how you develop and put big money in to an
office park or an apartment complex or whatever it is? I think it’s going to be
more and more important. It’s clearly important now. The thing that we see is that
there is some increase in land values that are close to it
typically on the residential side. But we don’t really have.. Right now, we’ve got the linear
trail system and we see a little bit of increase. But I think when we get more
ridership for biking or walking on those trails, the higher that
value becomes particularly for the residential component. The other side of it is the
private sector can help on the, uh, implementation by
contributing as well. We’ve probably contributed five
miles worth of land adjoining some of the tributaries from
the Nonconnah and the Wolf — I mean, Boyle has — to Wolf
River Conservancy or Nature Conservancy or to
different groups. And we did it early for
conservation reasons. And now, we have a different
view because we’ve got all these trails. A lot of some of the trails
that are out in Germantown, you know, run across land
that we gave to Germantown. And then, two-and-a-half miles
of trail are on our Humphrey’s boulevard development. And we’re getting a
benefit we hadn’t anticipated. No question about it. Yeah, Bill? So, Mayor, what is the state of
the Green Print plan currently in Hernando? And what’s your next major goal? In Hernando, we have a sub grant
off of the main grant for the DeSoto County
natural resources plan. And that draft has been sent out
to us to mark up and send back. And we should have a final
copy in a couple of months. But I think that I
am like most people. I’m very visual. And if I can see a map that
shows where the trails are currently and where the
new ones are proposed, then I can start thinking
about what our next step is. And I’ll go back to an example
we have of how people need to see where things are going
to be before they’ll donate. So, we had all these people
wanting to build a dog park and build a skate park in Hernando. But there was no land. As soon as we had a master parks
plan approved by the board that said here’s where a skate park
can go and here is where a dog park can go, they went out and
started raising money because it’s easy to raise money
when you know where it’s going. So, we’re at the point
we’re about to build a dog park because we have land and
they raised enough money. The skate park
people raised 30 grand. They’re well on their way. So, even though we can’t afford
as a government all the time, we have to give a plan to the
people if we expect private money to come in. And along those lines, Rusty. At the outset of this when the
Urban Land Institute was talking to people about donating
land in this corridor, how hard to sell was that? We’ve had some pretty big
donors who have given land to facilitate these green
ways along the blue ways. But then, there are a lot of
people that I don’t think they have the vision for it. That’s one reason why
this plan really does help. I think private land owners
think about how they could participate. The other side of it, which the
Mayor would be directly involved in, is the regulatory side. Because the real difficult.. John and I have
talked about this a lot. In getting a
complete network together, it’s fairly easy to take
ground that is very flood prone, which is what’s always the case
if you’re wanting the rivers, and get people to
think about giving that. It’s all together a more
difficult task to get people to give the connections between
these river systems that create an overall grid or
network or series of loops. And going over the ridges
means you’re going over very developable ground
that has a higher value. And the only way that can
occur is by having a plan that actually shows the municipality
and the Board of Aldermen and the city council people that
we really need this trail here. And that’s part of the big push
to me of the green print is to get the overall network
visualized so that the regulatory bodies can help
encourage or extract depending on the attitude or the
inclination of who they’re dealing with can get
those trails in place. Because that’s much harder
than doing the trails along the river. The Wolf River Conservancy, when
they were trying to do a green way all the way from ultimately
I think the Ghost River all the way to the Mississippi. What they have to raise money
for and I’ve talked to Keith Cole, the executive
director there, and he said, you know, people
think it’s all this money is going to go towards
this three foot wide path. Making a three foot wide
path is really simple. It’s not a particularly
difficult construction project. It’s about all that land
and all land acquisition. Right, lots of land. So, back to you John. I mean, does the
plan envision, um, a way, mechanisms of doing that? Is it all purchase? Is it all donations? Is it imminent domain,
which freaks some people out? What’s the plan say about all
that land acquisition or right of way acquisition? Right. So, what we tried to do, um, in
the plan in the implementation section is really lay out all
the different options that are available for land acquisition. In every case, it’s
going to be different. And certainly, you know, Keith
Cole would tell you the same thing with his experience
just along the Wolf River. As with each section
that they’ve done, the experience has been
different and sort of thinking about, um, you know, how to go
about acquiring the different properties. You know, you
mentioned, um, you know, donations. Certainly that would be
something that we’d probably put at a higher
priority on our tier. Other types of acquisition, um.. There are also a
number of regulatory, uh, opportunities that
communities can take advantage of and helping sort of
piece together the network. You know, imminent domain is
certainly something that is available although I think
that should probably be a last resort, um, opportunity. But the plan does
try to look through, you know, what opportunities are
available for acquiring land, particularly, you know, given
the three states that we’re working with. Um, so that that guidance can
be available for whether it’s municipalities or non-profit
organizations or some other organization who wants
to take on contributing, um, you know, a piece to
the network in the long run. What’s your experience? I mean, as a
politician, as a, you know, mayor of the city. I mean, you’ve got this mix of
ways that we’re talking about of getting access to the land. How has Hernando approached that
and what’s been the reception of residents and land
owners and so on? Usually the last thing you
want to do is imminent domains. So, we work around that. And I think that’s where
the plan comes in to play. I was telling you about the
new 12 foot wide multi-use path we’re going to build. That’s been on our comprehensive
plan for quite a few years. So, what’s happened is as the
Arbys built and the guaranteed bank built and the car wash
that’s about to build that we’re building, they knew there was
supposed to be a 12 foot wide path there. So, we have some
sections already built by those businesses. So, it’s right there
in the road right away. It didn’t bother anybody. Instead of building a
five foot sidewalk, they built a 12 foot. And that fits right
in with our plan. That’ll be less we have to
build with that grant money. Um, the other thing is you can
use tools that developers like. We got the North
Mississippi Land Trust. I know there’s land conservancy. And the developers can donate
some of those paths that might go along the ditch banks. And they can get a
tax credit for that. And then it’s in
perpetuity with the land trust. And we can put the
trails through there. Yeah. And that helps the developers. That’s a win-win deal between
the developers and the city. But I think imminent domain is
always the last choice we want to make. Right. And if I can go back to Bill. Is there a map that people
can go to on the website. Absolutely. So, on our website,
Midsouthgreenprint-dot-org, there’s.. It’s called the content map. It’s on the website under the
section title called vision. We also have the, uh, the first
draft of the final plan on the website, as well, which you can
easily find by going to the home page. That contains the content. Midsouthgreenprint-dot-org. Okay. Um, there’s also the question
of programming with this. Is there a balance in developing
this network of programming versus people who
use it in solitude, I’ll say for lack
of a better term. That’s a great question. The primary focus that
we had was creating, you know, an idea for the
network so that we’re able to create connectivity throughout
the region and do things similar to what, um, you know, Rusty and
Mayor Johnson have talked about. Connecting our communities,
connecting destinations. Not just, you know,
our green assets and, you know, community
destination but also employment destinations, as well. That was sort of the first or
the main intent of the plan. However, the plan also includes
a number of recommended actions, um, that help sort of give
additional weight to the plan and meaning. And programming is one of the
things that we looked at in there. There’s a section on talking
about the regional network of parks, green ways and open
spaces that talks about not just creating new spaces but
improving access and improving use of our existing spaces. When we got up to the community
and we were talking about the plan, early on, you know, a lot
of people expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to connect
across the region but equally an interest in
improving the accessibility, the use and the benefits that
we have in our existing green space. Right now, the region has
an abundance of green space. But not all of it is well used. And I think, you know, creating
pilot programs at the community scale, doing things where
neighborhood organizations are working with, uh,
local governments, um, you know, local businesses,
even schools to help improve programming and green spaces. I think it would improve the use
so that as those connections are made, you have mroe
destinations along the network. But also, there’s more
opportunities within neighborhoods for individuals
and children to be able to use the green space in a productive
way that has benefits for all ages and all levels of ability. Right. And we’ve seen that to some
extent with the western end of the green line along Tilman
where the Binghampton community development corporation
has been very involved. And it’s not an involvement
just on Broad Avenue. It’s an involvement with housing
right there at the end of the Green Line at this point. Absolutely. Um, I’m thinking about
the High Line in New York. I don’t know how many people
have been on the High Line. It just opened and
people who haven’t, it’s this kind of amazing thing. And it’s a couple of miles long. It’s an elevated train. It used to be a freight train
for people who don’t know about. They’re about to
open the last section. And I don’t know exactly who to
question but I’m going to look at you, Rusty, for
some kind of answer. It has been hugely expensive. It’s amazing. I mean we talk
about a $600,000 grant. I think the last half mile
they’ve opened cost $75 million. Now I guess this
is New York money, not Mid-South money. Um, but the transformation of
those neighborhoods has been remarkable. And it’s a
chicken and egg thing. Which came first? But many people point to that
green line going in there has raised property values and
brought restaurants and so on. People have talked
about that, you know, that will happen with
the green line here. Again, do you see
that happening? The peripheral of impact. Not at that level. No, it’s New York dollars. We have to do this Shelby
County or Mississippi dollars. I do see it happening
and it is happening. I think part of the wonder
there was you had a very unsafe setting in the urban area
of that part of New York. And then suddenly, you have this
very controlled totally safe on the standpoint of no vehicular. You know, it’s
completely bypassing that. And that’s really in a way what
we have along our green ways. We have a setting where we don’t
cross many roads at all and the green line crosses like
twice to get to Tilman. I guess it crosses both
Highland and Highpoint Terrace. But otherwise, you know,
you’re really pretty safe. And that safety factor is
something that introduces something new in kind of the
older parts of Memphis if we can make it that way. And part of it is
getting a lot of use, which is then back to the
strategy of why we want the connectivity. Do you see that
at all as a Mayor? I mean, people
concerned about, you know, running. How do you manage people’s
expectations of safety with lanes, bike lanes
and paths and trails? You know, what I’ve seen
happened very directly in our town was a sign where there were
some houses built before the proposed trail behind
their house was built. And once their
houses were there, they were scared to
have the trail built. They thought it would
bring something bad. A good place for people to
get in their home and run away. But on the other hand, we have
a Lee Summit Park that we built for $300,000. 250,000 of that in grant money. And it has a trail. And the first house that
was built backing up to it, very quickly the new home owner
put in a gate to they could get to the trail. The next.. And this is only
five houses I think. But the next four houses
that were built by the builder, he built them with gates and
called that trail an amenity and they sold like hot cakes. So, it’s, you know, it’s what
people are used to or it’s a perception. But those houses sold quicker. He built those there instead of
on the lot because he knew he could sell them faster. Parks are an amenity. Trails are an amenity. People are
clamoring for those things. Anywhere you go in the
nation, you can just look. There’s data just piled up that
says a home near a park is worth more money. Alright, let that
be the last word. Thank you for being here. Thank you, Rusty. Thank you, John. Thank you, Bill Dries. Thank you for joining us. Join us again next week. Goodnight. [theme music] CLOSED CAPTIONING
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