New Downtown Memphis Commission president shares futuristic vision

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The new president of Downtown Memphis Commission is sharing her vision for the downtown area.

She said she expects significant change within the next couple of years.

Jennifer Oswalt got to remove the 'interim' title last week after she was officially approved as president and CEO of the commission.

"We're really focused on connecting the momentum that's happening downtown," Oswalt said. "We want more people living and working downtown, because we think that will make it vibrant."

Oswalt comes into the CEO role as major projects are underway in Downtown Memphis.

The mayor's Riverfront Task Force is leading a redesign of the area along the mighty Mississippi, the Cook Convention Center is set to get a facelift, and St. Jude's expansion is slated with transforming the Pinch District.

"You'll see big change here," Oswalt said.

She said more developers are giving Downtown Memphis an eye.

"I think there's been a lot more interest from the outside as well as local developers," Oswalt said.

But crime remains a concern for some.

A couple was attacked last month near Main and Exchange, and 56-year-old Susan Grissom was murdered nearly two weeks ago in her home on Mud Island.

"Downtown is still the safest zip code and we have a strong presence with the police," Oswalt said.

She said Beale Street security remains a focus, too.

Weeks ago, Memphis City Council members voted to end the Beale Street Bucks program. Now, a consultant will be brought in to look at all the options.

"We just want a solution, something more than nothing," Oswalt said.

Oswalt said that consultant is expected to have results back to Beale Street Task Force and Downtown Memphis Commission by the first of the year.

But if they decide they need to see the crowds in person instead of through video, they will study options through the spring.

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