South Memphis Revitalization Action Project (SoMe RAP)



So Vu sells fresh vegetables at the South Memphis Farmers Market.

photograph by Justin Fox Burks

Why it matters: “St. Andrew has catalyzed a major resident-driven community planning process over the last three years, culminating in the 240-page South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan (SoMe RAP). The residents of South Memphis, themselves, have been empowered to frame and determine the future of their own revitalized community, encouraged and supported by a host of invested institutional stakeholders.” — Dr. Kenneth Robinson, chair, SoMe RAP steering committee

Stakeholders:

Residents, business owners, and faith communities of South Memphis, St. Andrew AME Church, The Works Inc., University of Memphis, Assisi Foundation of Memphis, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Second Congregational Church, Monumental Baptist Church, Hyde Family Foundations, Plough Foundation, Self +Tucker Architects, Commercial Advisors, and Memphis Regional Design Center

Leaders and Consultants:

Dr. Kenneth Robinson, St. Andrew AME Church; Curtis Thomas, The Works Inc.; and Dr. Katherine Lambert-Pennington and Dr. Kenneth Reardon, University of Memphis

Area boundaries:

Trigg Ave., I-240, Person Ave., Lauderdale St.

Area History:

The community was developed on the site of former dairy and vegetable farms in the late 1800s in response to the growing railroad and warehousing industry coming through the city. South Memphis was incorporated as the region’s first planned industrial suburb that was home to manufacturing facilities and working- and middle-class housing. World War II produced a vibrant residential housing market and neighborhood-oriented retail sector. By the late 1950s and early ’60s, though, a combination of powerful economic and social forces undermined the stability of many of the city’s older residential neighborhoods, including South Memphis, as manufacturing companies moved away and trucks replaced railroads. In the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many families moved to the suburbs, further destabilizing the residential and economic base of the area. Despite those challenges leading into the twentieth century, South Memphis has maintained a strong cultural identity.

Current Conditions:

South Memphis primarily consists of residential properties with nodes of underutilized neighborhood commercial developments. The area struggles with blight and disinvestment, particularly related to properties owned by out-of-town investors. The partners of SoMe RAP have joined to enact a resident-led plan that has already generated significant investment in the community, including the South Memphis Farmers Market, repaving of South Parkway with new bike lanes, and the construction of the new Ernestine Rivers Childcare Center.  A 240-page plan (SoMe RAP) was put together by the University of Memphis in 2009, with the input of 1,000 residents, to provide a 5- to 7-year map for the community’s development. Included in the plan are more than 50 specific, prioritized projects supported by the community.

Ideal Situation:

SoMe RAP was adopted by the City Council as the official plan for South Memphis. The document is the community’s voice in guiding it’s future. The ideal is to see all items in the plan successfully completed.

How to Get to the Ideal:

A balanced investment of capital improvement, Community Development Block Grant, and economic development funds from the city will bring more public resources for infrastructure to the area. This renewed public commitment would stimulate a renewed interest among private investors attracted by the neighborhood’s location, highway access, cultural assets, and affordable supply of homes. The ongoing success of local CDC and faith-based housing and economic development projects will further encourage private sector investment within the community.

Current Funding Situation:

The existing investments of the St. Andrew Enterprise, which includes The Works Inc., is more than $21 million since 1998. The Works is currently seeking to raise $150,000 to match funding provided by the Plough Foundation to create a permanent pavilion and year-round nutrition education center for the South Memphis Farmers Market.

Funding Goal:

$2.9 million, according to The Works Inc.

Jobs Created:

University of Memphis anthropology and city planning faculty have served as the planning consultants for the SoMe RAP community. Self + Tucker Architects have served as designers for the South Memphis Farmers Market and have consulted on other projects. The Works Inc. has served as the coordinator for the plan’s development and stewards its implementation.

How You Can Help:

“SoMe RAP is an ever-evolving collection of partners working in concert to establish a lasting holistic revitalization. We are always looking for development partners, program volunteers, and funders.” — Curtis Thomas, deputy executive director, The Works Inc.

Contact:

Curtis Thomas, deputy executive director, The Works Inc. at curtis.thomas@theworkscdc.org or 946-9675.

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