West Tennessee Regional Initiatives

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Mid-South Regional Greenprint & Sustanability Plan

Not limited to a single state, the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan seeks to unify parts of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi in developing a regional vision for a network of green spaces connecting four counties in the three states. The plan aims to create a multi-jurisdictional approach to integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in Shelby County, Tennessee; Fayette County, Tennessee; Crittenden County, Arkansas; and DeSoto County, Mississippi.

Due to this tri-state territory, the Greater Memphis Region faces unique challenges, among them balancing the needs and desires of different state and local governments and urban, suburban, and rural areas. In addition, there is a serious issue of obesity in Memphis and parts of the surrounding area. According to the 2012 Gallup-Well Being Poll, the City of Memphis had the highest rate of obesity in the United States. These factors, along with high poverty and access issues, create a dynamic and complex environment for growth and development in the region.

The Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan is funded by a $2.6 million HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant awarded to Shelby County, Tennessee. The plan process is coordinated by the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Sustainability. The plan also received a $515,000 grant from the Hyde Family Foundation. This plan is a good example of leveraged public-private and philanthropic investments toward a shared community vision.

The goal of the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan is to create a unified regional vision for a network of regional green spaces that improves the regional quality of life; promotes community health; creates stronger connectivity to parks, open spaces, and communities; builds on pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure; establishes better access from homes to jobs, schools, services, and fresh food; improves environmental quality and natural habitat; and achieves equitable project impact across the four-county area. This network includes green space areas such as parks, greenways, bike trails and walking paths, byways, waterways, conservation lands, natural areas, wildlife management areas, open space areas, community gardens, stormwater management areas, and other similar places. The plan will address housing and neighborhood revitalization, community health and wellness, resource conservation and environmental protection, accessibility, neighborhood engagement, and social equity in the four- county region.

The primary components of the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan will create:

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Engaged resident at a Mid-South Regional Greenprint Community Workshop (source: midsouthgreenprint.org)

    • the Regional Vision Plan, led by a consortium of eight topic-focused working groups;
    • interactive data mapping and analysis to support the regional planning effort;
    • community engagement and capacity building to gain public input and buy-in to the regional planning process and build long-term capacity for engaging in the public planning process;
    • a bus transit to workplace study that surveys how transit access to major employment centers can be improved and connected to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure;
    • a health impact assessment of green infrastructure;
    • a Fair Housing and Equity Assessment, providing analysis of how the link between housing, infrastructure, and opportunity can be more equitable in lower-income areas of the region;
    • a minority recreational use public education campaign; and
    • subplanning awards for localized or topic-focused projects throughout the region that advance the Regional Vision Plan.

This plan illustrates how a citizen-based regional planning process driven by organizations and community groups working in partnership with government bodies and the private sector can establish a regional vision and structure for ongoing collaborative cross-jurisdictional planning. The plan is a collaborative effort, utilizing the skills and resources of the Memphis MPO and West Memphis MPO, Mid-South Regional Greenways Steering Committee, ULI Memphis, Hyde Family Foundation, Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, Memphis Area Association of Governments, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, and 80 other regional organizations and municipalities that comprise the Mid-South Regional Greenprint Consortium. A 25-member Consortium Executive Committee is responsible for the guidance and decision making during the planning process.

In addition to the success of bringing together over 80 different organizations and 200 individuals throughout the four-county region, the project has set ambitious targets for community participation, including over 50 community meetings of various types to obtain citizen input and feedback in the planning process. The Mid-South Regional Greenprint project completed its first major milestone: the development of the Regional Vision Plan in October 2013. After the development of the Regional Vision Plan, the Bus Transit to Workplace Study, Health Impact Assessment, and Fair Housing and Equity Assessment will begin and continue for several months.

The second phase of the project is dedicated to providing grants to organizations involved with the Consortium to conduct localized or topic-focused planning that advances the goals and objectives of the Regional Vision Plan. There will be a total of $800,000 available for small grants not to exceed $50,000 per organization. The grant activities and additional studies and assessments will be combined with the Regional Vision Plan to produce the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan by the end of 2014.