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Open for business: the University Neighborhoods Development Corporation.


The University Neighborhoods Development Corporation (UNDC) is a private, non-profit, neighborhood-based organization, distinct from the University of Memphis, focusing on a community and economic development strategy in the University District that is closely coordinated with University leadership. The University District neighborhoods are directly impacted by the policies, activities, and successes of the University. There is a strong need for a clear strategy to build on the neighborhoods' unique opportunity to benefit from planned growth of the University. Last year, the UNDC, with support from the City of Memphis, commissioned Looney Ricks Kiss, a local architectural and urban planning firm, to complete the "Highland Street Master Plan" to outline such a strategy.

In summer 2007, to enable the UNDC to become fully engaged in community revitalization, the UNDC hired its first Executive Director, University of Memphis alumnus Steve Barlow (MA, 1996; JD, 2004), who is charged with overseeing the implementation of the Highland Street Master Plan. Barlow, a real estate lawyer, is a community development professional who has extensive experience in community organizing, project development, and implementing public/private partnerships in Memphis and Shelby County. "There is a level of new development underway in our community that we haven't seen in a long time. There is so much potential here for attracting smart development and positive growth. The UNDC is working very hard to bring all the stakeholders together to foster the kind of community revitalization that creates a win for everybody," says UNDC Board member and University District resident Ed Masten.


History of the UNDC

The UNDC was formed in 2003 by a group of neighborhood leaders, business owners, and the University of Memphis leadership to take full advantage of the impact of the University of Memphis as an instrument for economic and community revitalization in the core neighborhoods surrounding the University of Memphis, often referred to as the "University District" The organization was born at a time when President Raines and the Board of Visitors first embarked upon a strategy of engaging the University of Memphis with the community in a new and vibrant way. The active participation of members of the University's leadership team on the UNDC board, coupled with strong support from President Raines for the UNDC's mission, have enabled the organization to rapidly gain momentum and attract the interest and attention of key business and community leaders. The University District Incorporated, a separate non-profit organization working to strengthen neighborhood associations, was also instrumental in the establishment of the UNDC.


The 16-member UNDC Board of Directors is chaired by Charles Lee, Vice President of Business and Finance at the University of Memphis. "This is an exciting time in the University District," says Lee, "everyone's pulling together with a whole new spirit of optimism and energy about our future." Other officers and board members are: Vice President Brent Alvord (President of Lenny's Corporation), Secretary Ed Masten (Manager at International Paper and district resident), Treasurer Peter Moon (Partner/Owner of RP Tracks & Entertainment), Dr. David Cox, Bridget Chisholm, Doug Ferris, Dr. John Gnuschke, Josh Hammond, Dr. Cecil Humphreys, Dr. Mark Matheny, Virginia McLean, Melissa Pearce, Fran Riley, Bill Stemmler, Henry Turley, and ex officio Board member Tony Poteet.

University/Community Partnership

A growing trend among urban universities across the U.S. is to partner with community organizations in the redevelopment of surrounding neighborhoods. Other successful university/community partnerships have been models for UNDC'S strategic planning. For example, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Georgia Tech, the University of Denver, Arizona State University, and Columbia all have participated significantly in efforts to revitalize the neighborhoods around them. These and other universities acknowledge the direct relationship between the vitality of adjacent neighborhoods and commercial districts and the long-term strength and marketability of their institutions.


The University's commitment to redevelopment is unique among examples of university/community partnerships, primarily due to the breadth of its engagement with community stakeholders. In fact, in 2006, the University received the Carnegie Foundation's highest classification for engagement--one of only two Tennessee universities so recognized. Another novel feature of the University of Memphis engagement strategy has been to integrate academic, economic development, and community building efforts, with a focus on interdisciplinary applied research. The UNDC is poised to capitalize on the unique opportunities these innovative approaches to community engagement present. The UNDC's success in the University District will serve as a model for community revitalization in other areas of Memphis and in other urban environments throughout the country.


Engaged Scholarship and the University District Initiative

Many of the Engaged Scholarship efforts at the University of Memphis have been focused in the University District. The University District Initiative (the "Initiative") is a partnership among the University, neighborhood groups, and public and private entities. It was created to support economic and social development through focused academic research and analysis. The Initiative grew out of the Provost's Community Initiatives Focus Area, aimed at advancing the University's national standing. Completed, in progress, and planned research projects in the University District conducted by the various academic units of the University provide invaluable resources to the UNDC.


The mission of the Initiative is to advance knowledge about building strong, healthy communities and to build the capacity of community organizations by engaging University District stakeholders in the teaching, research, and outreach resources of the University. To accomplish this, faculty from every college and senior staff from Business and Finance, Student Affairs, and representatives from the City of Memphis and Shelby County have joined with University District neighborhood organizations and institutions to address social, health, urban design, and safety issues.

For example, in fall 2007, Gene Pearson, the director of the University's Graduate Program in City & Regional Planning, will partner his Comprehensive Planning Studio course with the UNDC, the University District, Inc., neighborhood organizations, the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development, and the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development to complete a new comprehensive plan for the University District. Other examples of completed Initiative projects include:

* Living Learning Communities Design: Students in Steve Redding's Planning Design Studio and Michael Hagge's Architecture Design Studio teamed up to study the design and feasibility of new privately-owned Live-Learn residential units close to campus. These units, housing eight students each, offer private living space fused with shared common areas--kitchens, living rooms, even classroom space--to groups of students with common interests or in the same academic program. The University's current Architecture Houses and Foreign Language House are popular examples.

* Market and Feasibility Analyses: Students in the University's Graduate Program in City & Regional Planning's Special Projects Studio partnered with local developers Rusty Bloodworth of Boyle Investments, Henry Turley of Henry Turley Company, and Bob Rogers of Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers to develop market and feasibility analyses for several projects in the University District representing a range of housing, retail, and restaurant redevelopments on Highland Street and in the area immediately west of campus.


The UNDC's Priorities

In order to take full advantage of the burgeoning opportunities and partnerships in the University District, the UNDC will:

* Develop public/private partnerships and creative joint ventures.

* Advance neighborhood and community-wide policies that stimulate and encourage smart growth and positive redevelopment efforts, both public and private.

* Promote ongoing community-based revitalization efforts.

Public/Private Partnerships

The UNDC's central role is to actively redevelop and promote the University District as a great place to live, learn, and do business by reinforcing existing strengths, stimulating new public and private investment, and bringing new tools for development to this market. With support from the UNDC, the University, Memphis City and Shelby County governments, and others are actively working to employ creative tools to support new development projects in the University District. These projects will likely require strong public/private partnerships to leverage some level of public investment or incentives.

"The UNDC has already been a key partner for us, and is making it possible for us to leverage our efforts in the community as we plan our Highland Row development. The presence of a proactive neighborhood-based development entity such as the UNDC is a tremendous advantage for anyone developing projects around the University" said Dan Poag, President of Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers.


Policy Work

On the public policy front, the UNDC will:

* Take a lead role in pursuing and enforcing proper restrictions on land uses and in addressing blight and physical deterioration in the University District, thus encouraging enhanced property maintenance and property values.

* Work to implement development controls to allow traditional "Main Street" patterns of development.

* Encourage community-friendly uses of land in both commercial and residential sections of the University District.

* Partner with neighborhood groups and local government to eliminate blight and encourage enhanced property maintenance and property values.

Community Revitalization

The UNDC will continue to coordinate and work closely with ongoing community building efforts in the University District, including the University District Business Alliance, the University District Inc., and the Highland Area Renewal Corporation. "There has been a lot of activity in recent years at the University of Memphis, as well as in the development community and among area neighborhood resident and business groups. We are encouraged to have the University of Memphis and the UNDC so involved in bringing together the various efforts for maximum benefit to all involved;' says Hal Mabray, President of the University Neighborhood Business Association and owner of the Peddler Bicycle Shop on Highland.


These are exciting times for the University of Memphis, the UNDC, and the University District. The UNDC is poised to build, develop, and maximize lasting relationships between the University and the University District stakeholders and to achieve sustainable economic and community revitalization through strategic partnering. The University, properly engaged, is the engine for the revitalization of the University District. There is a direct relationship between the economic vitality of the University District and the long-term strength and marketability of the University. Together with the University, the UNDC is positioning itself to be a regional and national model of the long-term, far-reaching economic benefits of university/community partnering.

The Bigger Picture

* The University District is a distinct part of Memphis, but it is integrally connected to the city around it, particularly to the Fairgrounds area, the Medical District, and Downtown. And while the UNDC and the University have ambitious work to do around the University, they know they can and should add value to the larger context. Frank Ricks, partner of Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, describes the area linking the University to Downtown as the "Zipper Zone," an imaginary zipper linking most of the city's higher education, civic, and cultural institutions. He points out that protecting and strengthening the Zipper Zone could help spur investment and redevelopment and better reconnect the city. Improved development around the University is one part of a larger more comprehensive urban strategy supported by the City of Memphis.

* The University District, Inc., is a private, non-profit organization formed to represent the mutual interests of a variety of neighborhood groups in the University District. The neighborhood groups represented include the Normal Station Neighborhood Association, the Messick-Buntyn Neighborhood Association, the East Buntyn Historic District Neighborhood Association, the Joffre Area Civic Association, the University Area Neighborhood Association, and the Red Acres Neighborhood Association.

* The Highland Area Renewal Corporation (HARC) is a non-profit service agency dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in the University of Memphis area. Some recent initiatives of HARC include the establishment of an Emergency Aid Fund for Families with elementary-aged students in after-school programs and the NOAH project, which will document the history of the community through the stories of the senior residents living in the community.

* The University District Business Alliance is an association of business owners and managers in the neighborhood that works to promote existing businesses and to attract new investment in the community. Its members include Brother Juniper's, Buster's Liquors, Garibaldi's Pizza, Lenny's, the Mason YMCA, Memphis Originals, Newby's Restaurant, RP Tracks, The Peddler Bicycle Shop, and the Tiger Book Store.

By the Numbers:

The Economic Impact of the University

* $2.5 Billion: The annual economic impact (direct and indirect) of the University on the Memphis economy.

* $320 Million: The collective annual earnings of the 2,800 full-time and 2,700 part-time employees of the University.

* $122 Million Anticipated investment by the University in campus infrastructure and facilities over the next five years.

* $54 Million: The research funding received by the University in FY 2006-2007.

* 20,562: The total student enrollment at the University.

* 35%: The percentage of African-American students in the University student body. (More African-American students are enrolled at the University than at any other college or university in Tennessee.)

* 24%: The percentage of students at the University who come from outside Shelby County.

The UNDC Area

The map and tables represented here are taken from the following reports:

* "Live, Study, Play: A Development Plan for the University of Memphis Live/Learn Housing and Highland Street Retail," prepared by Emily Hunter, Thomas Pacello, and Adrian Williams.

* "A Development Analysis for University Center," prepared by Donald Anthony, Laura Jewell, Adrienne Johnson.

* "Highland Row Mixed-Use Development Project," prepared by Jocelyn Eddins and Tim Moreland.


The students mentioned above were a part of the Graduate Program with the University of Memphis City and Regional Planning. Thanks to Steve Red ding, Research Assistant Professor, for his assistance and allowing this data to be reprinted. For more information concerning these reports and the University of Memphis City and Regional Planning, visit
Table 1. Population and Households Based on Drive Times, 2006

 5 5-10 10-20
 Minutes Minutes Minutes

Total Population 34,094 113,675 418,560
Total Households 14,905 48,367 160,245

Source: DemographicsNow.

Table 2. Income Based on Drive Times, 2006

 5 5-10 10-20
 Minutes Minutes Minutes

Income $0-$9,999 14.2% 12.1% 13.1%
Income $10,000-$14,999 7.7% 6.8% 5.8%
Income $15,000-$24,999 12.6% 14.4% 12.1%
Income $25,000-$34,999 11.6% 14.0% 12.4%
Income $35,000-$49,999 14.2% 16.3% 15.3%
Income $50,000-$74,999 15.0% 16.4% 18.5%
Income $75,000-$99,999 7.9% 8.0% 10.0%
Income $100,000-$124,999 5.1% 4.5% 5.6%
Income $125,000-$149,999 3.0% 2.2% 2.6%
Income $150,000+ 8.8% 5.3% 4.7%
Average Household Income $69,510 $53,834 $53,720
Median Household Income $38,595 $37,057 $40,740
Per Capita income $32,367 $23,302 $216,181

Source: DemographicsNow.

Table 3. Retail Gap Analysis for Highland Trade Area

 HH Expenditures Retail
 for Trade Area Sales in
 (HH Income Highland Trade
 $75,000 and Up) Area

Books $ 2,611,300.32 $ 1,395,678.00
Computer and Hardware $ 1,870,023.15 $ 1,427,460.00
Cosmetics and Perfume $ 175,782.18 $ 817,632.00
Footwear $ 5,327,652.39 $ 1,365,422.76
Furniture $ 7,916,348.21 $ 2,693,523.60
Hair Care $ 3,011,568.39 $ 2,029,440.00
Housewares and
 Small Appliances $ 5,629,393.01 $ 4,675,748.00
Men's Apparel $ 3,014,144.86 $ 1,733,480.00
Women's Apparel $ 6,416,049.41 $ 2,847,840.00
Food Away from Home $ 35,972,263.91 $ 20,100,000.00
Total $ 71,944,527.81 $ 39,086,226.36

 Sales as a
 Retail Percentage of
 Sales Total HH
 Gap Expenditures

Books $ 1,215,620.32 53.0%
Computer and Hardware $ 422,563.15 76.0%
Cosmetics and Perfume $ 641,849.82 465.0%
Footwear $ 3,962,231.63 26.0%
Furniture $ 5,222,824.61 34.0%
Hair Care $ 9,821,28.39 67.0%
Housewares and
 Small Appliances $ 953,645.01 83.0%
Men's Apparel $ 1,280,664.86 58.0%
Women's Apparel $ 3,568,209.41 44.0%
Food Away from Home $ 15,872,263.91 56.0%
Total $ 32,858,301.45

Source: 2000 U.S. Census and @002 U.S. Economic Census.

For more information the UNDC, Steven E. Barlow, Esq. Executive Director University Neighborhoods Development Corporation 480 South Highland Memphis, Tennessee 38111 Phone: (901)605-8209 Fax: (309)408-6039 Email:
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Author:Barlow, Steve; Coulter, Ann; Trippel, Andrew
Publication:Business Perspectives
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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