August 03, 2015

Bloodworth Shares Views About Memphis’ Development Needs

By:  Bill Dries
The Daily News

Rusty Bloodworth is chairman of the Memphis district council of the Urban Land Institute. He is also executive vice president of Boyle Investment Co.

ULI is a nonprofit institution with chapters around the world.

Bloodworth talked earlier this month to the Memphis Rotary Club about ULI’s view of Memphis and the surrounding area. These are excerpts from his speech:

About ULI:
“Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of our land resources to create sustainable, thriving communities. … In one sense it is a little bit like a land think tank organization. The region actually goes as far as Little Rock and up to Jackson, Tenn., and down into Mississippi. It’s a pretty broad region that we serve. We’ve got about 150 members. We’re trying to promote leading-edge initiatives in this urban region and focus particularly on how we use land.”

On regional growth:
“We don’t feel that there has been a lot of thinking over boundaries. … We felt like there was a tremendous opportunity to expand and think about our region with its green infrastructure as a sort of a foundation for all future dialogue.”

On creating a green trail:
“What we have been dialoguing about with a lot of interested parties … is trying to think in a broad vision about how these resources can not only be protected, but can be linked together. … We can create a linkage between the Loosahatchie (River) and the Wolf (River) at a strategic location. We can do the same thing between the Loosahatchie and the Hatchie (River). … We can also do one between the Wolf and the trail systems that would link the Wolf trail system over to the Nonconnah Basin. And we can link the Nonconnah to the Coldwater. There’s a very simple way it could occur in Northern Mississippi. … And then we can link out from the Coldwater back to the Mississippi. In doing this we can create over 400 miles of trail interconnected. That becomes a very special resource upon which to build great communities.”

On the pattern of Memphis development:
“It’s been built on the ridgeline which runs from the Mississippi and runs along that line. … As development historically moved from the Mississippi bluff to the east, it followed the ridge. Off of it, really great things happened. It’s a way of sort of organizing our thoughts about intervention as we seek to find ways to redevelop what has already been developed in a new and vibrant way.

“We would contend that it is terribly important to keep that backbone vibrant and that we take advantage of our resources we already have in place to work off those resources to make the city better. … We want to encourage a regional thinking that helps us figure out where resources should be placed here in Memphis. ”

On Overton Square:
“I feel like the important thing there is for the process to be open. … I think that the issue there is how do you bring back the vitality that it had and how do you do that using a strategic piece? That’s one issue. The other issue is when you have private-sector money willing to invest inside the (Interstate 240) loop, how do you facilitate that? It is not easy to get these two things. One of the solutions was to take down the buildings that are there and reconfigure them.

What I hope is that we will have enterprise active inside the loop wherever we can find it. But they’ve got to be guided and we would have been so much better off if the current unified development code that’s passing through regulatory approval (process) had been in place. If it had … we wouldn’t have had any of these issues. … They would have all gone away because the unified development code and the plans being developed would sort of say what is the right way to deal with Madison and Cooper.”