August 03, 2015

Charrette Eyes Medical District

By John Scruggs
– Memphis Business Journal –

The Knight Program in Community Building has awarded its annual community design project to Memphis for a week of intensive planning in the Medical District and surrounding neighborhoods.

The collaborative program is known in planning and architectural circles as a charrette, a combination of urban design and community input on a specific project or problem.

The Knight Program Charrette, based at the University of Miami school of architecture, will bring its 2006 fellows to Memphis for a collaborative week of urban planning July 17-22. The charrette will include 12 Knight fellows with varied expertise in community planning, development, architecture and other related disciplines. Community input will be an integral part of the process as well.

Rusty Bloodworth, executive vice president of Boyle Investment Co., is one of the fellows for 2006, and he brought the idea before the Urban Art Commission shortly after his first board meeting.

“Rusty came on board about a year ago, and he mentioned the program to us, suggesting we apply for it,” says Carissa Hussong, executive director of the Urban Art Commission. “It was the right opportunity for us at the right time.”

Hussong says the importance of urban design is something the Memphis organization has struggled with in the past, but the commission realized shortly after its inception that public art is just one aspect of community building.

Bloodworth, an architect by training, says the charrette is an opportunity to work with area hospitals and include the interests of the neighbors.

“Without some sort of intervention, development in this area would not be a success on the neighborhood front,” he says. “Intown and this charrette are really about sustainable development.”

Bloodworth says the charrette pulls all of the stakeholders in the community together. People realize their unilateral decisions can help or hurt interested parties in achieving goals for the area.

“Hopefully we will generate some great ideas that will gain traction with the City of Memphis and the hospitals in the area,” he says.

Creating a sense of identity and viable residential neighborhoods are important in planning development for the Intown area, Hussong says.

“I think that’s what attracted the Knight Program to Memphis,” she says. “They saw an opportunity to use this charrette as a model for other communities across the country.”