Open for Business: The University Neighborhoods Development Corporation

By Barlow, Steve; Coulter, Ann et al. | Business Perspectives, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Open for Business: The University Neighborhoods Development Corporation


Barlow, Steve, Coulter, Ann, Trippel, Andrew, Business Perspectives


Introduction

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.

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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.

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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. …

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