July 12, 2016
By Chris McCoy
– At Home In Memphis –
Utopian visions of the future initially attracted Rusty Bloodworth to his business. As executive vice president of Boyle Investment Company, reshaping Memphis is a large part of his work. He has been involved in or directly responsible for planning and developing huge swaths of the urban landscape where thousands of Memphians live and work every day, including much of the Poplar and Ridgeway areas, Humphreys Boulevard and his current passion, Collierville’s Schilling Farms. “The nice thing about the work we do here is that we are able to have a vision, and then go implement the vision,” says Bloodworth, a disarmingly friendly man whose barely contained excitement is evident as he talks about this work.
A native Memphian, Bloodworth decided at age 11 that he wanted to be an architect. He attended East High School and Memphis University School, then earned a spot in the University of Virginia’s undergraduate architecture program. But designing single buildings proved too limiting for Bloodworth. “Somewhere along the line, I realized what I was really interested in was community development,” he says. After graduation, a fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation allowed him to tour planned communities in northern and Eastern Europe and Russia. During this trip, he developed the aesthetic that would guide his future projects.
For Bloodworth, the most important aspect of a community is livability. His developments must work “in the tricycle level” and always put people’s needs first instead of expecting people to adapt to some grand scheme. “You can make the most horrid living environments imaginable if you let people who have a planning orientation have too much control,” he says, recalling some meticulously planned projects that proved utter failures in the Soviet Union.
Bloodworth’s involvement with Boyle Investments started out as a summer job doing population projections. He has been with what he calls the Boyle family for 30 years, taking time out for a stint in the Marine Corps and for graduate work in environmental design at Yale. Bloodworth’s role in shaping the growth of East Memphis has won wide recognition for its attention to detail, and he takes great care to ensure that all his projects fit into their environments. Renowned landscape architect John Omsbee Simonds once told him, “Don’t ever plan anything until you have gone out in the middle of the night and stood in the middle of the property and listened.” Bloodworth says he and his consultants study every aspect of the land in order to determine what elements are vital to its character. This is important, he explains, because “when we’re designing, we know it’s going to be in place a hundred years.”
Bloodworth insists that he is not a workaholic, “I’ve been very careful to keep my family time protected. I’ve got four kids. I work very hard during the day, and I rarely work after five ú well, that’s not true ú a quarter of six,” he says with a laugh. When he’s not working, he says, I spend a lot of time at church, and a lot of time with family, and I paint. I don’t paint as much as I’d like to, but I try to make time.” His philosophy of life is simple: “If you can see an opportunity to do good, you should do it.”