The question brought a hush to the proceedings. Everyone realized that the woman asking it had cut to the quick of the matter. I was attending one of the public outreach sessions sponsored by Memphis 3.0, a new initiative to develop a comprehensive plan for the city's third century, which begins in 2019. Such public meetings tend to attract the same few citizens who have the mindset and the time to get involved, and this woman was clearly a veteran of many such gatherings. Her question immediately conjured up the ghosts of past bureaucrats and academics, however well intentioned, that raised hopes for change, only to offer more business as usual after the data was collected.
But Ashley Cash, a veteran of neighborhood planning herself, and head administrator at the city's Office of Comprehensive Planning (OCP), was confident and quick with her response: "Whatever is written in this plan gets transferred to the policy and code of the city." This was, she insisted, going to be a plan with follow-through.
And it was perhaps the first time that one could honestly say this about such a document.
While municipal planning is nothing new, it has only evolved in fits and starts in Memphis. A comprehensive plan like Memphis 3.0 aims to coordinate various project-specific plans with a holistic vision of how to best grow the entire city. If our growth and wealth tend to concentrate around a "cone" expanding from downtown to the east along Poplar, how do we spread it out? How do we encourage businesses in underdeveloped neighborhoods. How do we improve transit to serve them better? How can we make all neighborhoods more livable and more sustainable?
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