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Grantmaking through the Livable Communities program area is organized around three major impact levers. We believe that by (1) creating a strong urban core, (2) connecting people, and (3) supporting thriving neighborhoods, we will transform Memphis into a city of livable communities that are economically vital, offer great quality of life, and attract and retain citizens.
When Memphis prospers, so does the Mid-South region. A weak city undermines the region’s ability to compete and grow economically. The Foundations’ trustees are focused on strengthening Memphis’s urban core. We seek to increase the number of citizens living and working in the area defined by North, East, and South Parkways and the Mississippi River as well as those neighborhoods prioritized by Community LIFT. Neighborhoods in the core are some of the most financially productive areas of the city as measured by tax revenue per square mile, yet the majority of new public investments are made at the edge of the city at the expense of the core historic neighborhoods. We choose to reinvest in the core because we believe that it offers the greatest opportunity for positive impact.
Initially, we are dedicating resources to analyze the application of a demand-driven strategy that leverages educational and medical anchor institutions in the urban core to attract more residents and businesses to the area. We seek to fund activities that result in an increased the number of citizens from outside Memphis and Shelby County living, working, and attending school in the urban core. While these activities benefit existing and new residents of the core, the entire city reaps the benefits of increased population and density in the core: a greater tax base allows the city to invest in infrastructure and services for all residents over time, improved and more efficient services for all, increased amenities, and greater social interaction leading to creativity and innovation.
We know that accessible green infrastructure—like parks, community gardens, trails, and walkable and bikeable streets—as well as reliable transit are key to excellent quality of life in an urban center. These assets physically connect people to jobs, homes, schools, and other destinations as well as to each other, by increasing human interaction and often offering respite from the bustle of daily life. They support increased physical activity, improved environmental conditions, and numerous health benefits.
The Foundations target strategies that result in great regional amenities and systems; strengthen and expand neighborhood parks, community gardens, trails, and streetscapes in the urban core; and improve public policy to support both system anchor and neighborhood level projects of this nature. While “system anchor” projects may fall outside of the defined urban core, smaller-scale neighborhood projects must be located in this geographic area.
Our grants fund activities that implement master and operating plans in world-class parks; advance city-wide park advocacy and planning; build the capacity of community garden programs; expand trail and bike facilities; improve sidewalks and streetscapes; and strengthen transit infrastructure and service delivery. Desired outcomes from these activities include more people enjoying parks and accessing community gardens, increased walking and biking, and greater utilization of transit in our city.
We believe in the power of individuals to shape their communities. Citizens know their neighborhoods better than outsiders and should define livability and quality of life for themselves. The Foundations support strategies that empower and support neighborhood stakeholders to impact community change in urban core neighborhoods. Our grants are dedicated to activities that support neighborhood-based planning and capacity-building; educate citizens on best practices in city-building; and implement projects that are driven by community priorities. Outcomes sought by the Foundations include more civically active and engaged citizens, increased citizen knowledge and skills for empowered change, and improved neighborhood livability and quality of life—as defined by neighborhood representatives themselves. We envision a city of neighborhoods with distinctive characteristics and proud citizens that together equal one unified Memphis.