“While other major American cities have adopted blight elimination plans and frameworks, Memphis will still be the first city to adopt a comprehensive neighborhood blight elimination charter,” says attorney Steve Barlow of Neighborhood Preservation Inc. (NPI), the nonprofit agency spearheading the charter process.
Over the last several years, government, business and philanthropic entities have increasingly realized that it takes collaboration to make a dent in the community’s social ills. The Blight Elimination Summit and the Memphis Blight Elimination Charter are another fulfillment of that reality.
Blighted properties, overgrown lots and abandoned buildings are not unique to Memphis. But Memphis is the only city with a blight elimination charter that affirms cross-sector commitment to uproot the causes of blight and prevent further decline.
There are 13,000 structures and vacant lots in Memphis that qualify as blighted, according to an estimate by local anti-blight advocacy group Neighborhood Preservation Inc. Among them are thousands abandoned houses that become havens for criminals as well as multistory apartment buildings where children sometimes play.
While there’s no shortage of blight in Memphis, there’s no shortage of passion or commitment to fight it here, either.
According to a recent analysis by Innovate Memphis, the residential area around Lincoln Elementary School in South Memphis (near the intersection of South Parkway and Lauderdale Street) is approximately three-quarters blighted. No one should live like this — certainly not in Memphis, known as one of the nation’s most generous cities. Sadly, many of our citizens do, including thousands of our children.
Three doors down, a leaf blower whines in the cool of a clear January afternoon.
Its operator wears a orange bandana over his mouth and nose to keep out the dust and leaves that billow around his stocky frame and the trim, neat single-story cottage the man apparently calls home. White bags stuffed with leaves are stacked in a row near the edge of the lawn, now trim and neat enough to match the house.